Advanced Television

C4 report suggests alternatives to social grade and class

January 11, 2024

Industry assumptions around consumers’ social grade and class could be among the last remaining acceptable stereotypes in the media industry, according to Mirror on Class and Social Grade – the latest phase in Channel 4’s Mirror on the Industry series, which tracks the diversity and inclusivity of advertising.

The report, commissioned by Channel 4 and Republic of Media, queries whether the Socioeconomic Grading (SEG) system, which is widely used to target ‘ABC1’ audiences, is now out of step with the purpose of its origin.

The changing nature of work, changes to the composition of British households and shifting demographics could mean the ABC1 category lacks specificity today, with more than 60 per cent of the UK public now fitting into this group. The report is based on a survey of 100 media agency experts – to find out what they thought about the socioeconomic grading system – and a representative sample of 1,000 members of the UK public, to understand how they perceive this system.

Channel 4’s Mirror on the Industry study, which audits representation within TV advertising found that working class portrayals were prone to reliance on stereotypes. Northern accents were two times more likely to be coded as working class in the audit, while characters coded as being ‘lower social grade’ in ads were also 50 per cent more likely to be from an ethnic minority.

Mirror on Class and Social Grade considers whether alternative approaches to advertising that focus on tracking and targeting affluence, affordability and attention – as opposed to the more conventional metrics of class and social grade:

  • Affluence – an indicator of disposable income.
  • Affordability – a measure of financial security, with those who own their home outright a stronger audience for high value goods.
  • Attention – those who are time rich are a commercially receptive audience.

Samantha Cannons, Research Manager at Channel 4, said: “Working on this project has made us unpick some of the assumptions around social grade and class and question whether this is okay – and what impact does this have on the ads being produced and broadcast to the nation? We don’t have all the answers – but we do want to raise some of the key issues surrounding the topic and provide some ideas to think differently about when it comes to advertising.”

Categories: Advertising, Articles, Research

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