New data reveals regional accent bias prevails in radio and podcast advertising

10 July 2024
LONDON – 10 July 2024: The Unstereotype Alliance, convened by UN Women, has commissioned together with Tesco, Kantar and Acast a first-of-its-kind study into the diversity of audio advertising in the UK. The results reveal that accent bias is a prominent issue with 62% of UK radio and podcast advertisements featuring Estuary English accents associated with the area along the River Thames, including London, or the King’s English. 

According to the study – which analysed ads covering both podcast advertising and national radio advertising across finance, retail, food and entertainment industries – accents from the North of England featured in just 19% of ads. Welsh and Scottish accents appear in just 2% of ads, while voices from the Midlands feature in 1% of ads. When broken down by sector, a mere 13% of finance and entertainment audio ads feature Northern voices with retail and food ads faring better at 27% and 23% respectively. 

Women make up 51% of the UK population but only 36% of audio ads feature female voices as the lead. Male voices dominate particularly in finance (53%), entertainment (48%) and food (47%) audio ads. Women represent 53% of voices heard in retail ads compared to 23% male voices. 

Stereotypes prevail 

The research also tested bespoke created audio ads with respondents asking a range of reflective (type 2 thinking) questions, as well as Intuitive Association Testing (type 1) to understand the intuitive reactions people have when listening to audio advertising. Findings reveal that Britons hold bias and stereotypical assumptions when it comes to gender and regional accents. When listening to grocery and finance ads with a male voiceover, respondents intuitively found the ad more informative and authoritative whilst the female voiced ads were deemed more trustworthy and relatable. 
Regional bias came into play once more with far fewer positive associations for the Northern voiced ads.  The Southern voiced ads were seen as more trustworthy, confident and helpful while Northern voiced ads were associated with quality and taste. 

The findings reveal positive associations for both male and female voices and for Northern and Southern accents, however, there is clear opportunity to overturn stereotypes by featuring more female voices in authoritative and informed roles across sectors such as finance. Likewise, there is opportunity to flip the narrative on male voices by depicting men as more relatable and caring.  
When it comes to enjoyment of audio ads, male and Southern voiced ads had higher enjoyability scores. However, the female voiced finance ad was more memorable (74% female voiced ad vs 67% male voiced ad) presenting brands in this sector with an opportunity to break with conventions and feature more female voices. 

Sarah Morrell, Senior Client Director in the Kantar Creative team, says: “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. If female voices in the finance sector create more ad memorability why not strive to improve gender balance in your audio advertising? 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.”

Bianca Bush, Commercial Insights Manager at Acast, adds: “Podcasts provide an environment where consumers are more engaged and actively listening. As well as having a diverse audience and listenership base, podcasts also offer a more diverse podcast host base and a diverse range genres and topics, which are chosen to listen to, by engaged audiences. Therefore, those who hear brand ads are more receptive, which presents podcast advertisers with a unique opportunity and responsibility to dial up diverse voice talent.”

Melda Simon, UK Chapter Lead for the Unstereotype Alliance, concludes: “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.”

For further information please contact Melda Simon: