Accent bias: less than 20% of UK audio ads use northern accents

Accent bias is a prominent issue in the UK, with 62% of UK radio and podcast adverts featuring Estuary English accents – or the ‘King’s English’ – according to recent research.

According to the study, conducted by Unstereotype Alliance in partnership with Tesco, Kantar and Acast, accents from the north of England featured in just 19% of ads, while Welsh and Scottish accents appear in just 2% of adverts.

It analysed adverts covering both podcast advertising and national radio advertising across a number of sectors. Just 13% of finance, retail and entertainment ads feature Northern voices, while retail ads fare better at 27% and 23% respectively.

Moreover, only 36% of ads feature female voices as the lead, with men dominating particularly in finance (53%). Women account for 53% of the voices in retail, however.

“The research clearly shows that there is inherent bias in UK audio and podcast advertising. However, the evidence also provides brands with an opportunity to be brave and make small changes that can have a big difference,” said Kantar creative team senior director Sarah Morrell.

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“If female voices in the finance sector create more ad memorability why not strive to improve gender balance in your audio advertising?” she continued.

“This is not only the right thing to do and what people expect and want from brands but can also have a positive impact on creative effectiveness and as a result the ROI from audio campaigns.”

Additionally, prejudices prevailed when it came to how these voices were received.  Ads featuring Southern voices were seen as more trustworthy, confident and helpful – while those featuring Northern voices were associated with quality and taste.

Unstereotype UK chapter lead Melda Simon added: “To truly succeed in our mission to eradicate stereotypes from all advertising and media content, it is absolutely vital that brands reflect the public they serve across all touchpoints.”

“We hope these results encourage audio advertisers to diversify their casting practices and strive for a 50:50 gender balance in audio advertising with greater regional, working-class and minority-ethnic accents.”

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