Channel 4’s annual diversity award will focus on LGBT+ representation after finding the community features in just 3% of UK ads.
The award, which offers £1m worth of commercial airtime to the winner, calls on the advertising industry to create adverts that include realistic portrayals of LGBT+ people without being tokenistic.
In addition to the winner, Channel 4 will also match-fund a maximum of four runner-up campaigns with commercial airtime worth £250,000.
Channel 4 began the awards in 2016 and has focused on a different area of diversity every year. Last year’s award was won by the RAF for its portrayal of female pilots with previous competitions focused on disability and mental health.
Matt Salmon, Channel 4’s head of agency and client sales, says: “Channel 4 is determined to drive change in this area and we particularly want to challenge advertisers to up their game in the representation of people from the LGBT+ community.”
The focus on LGBT+ representation comes after a study by the broadcaster found that the community features in just 3% of ads despite making up at least 6% of the population. The general public believes the level of representation to be much higher, estimating that 22% of adverts include LGBT+ people.
The YouGov research, commissioned by Channel 4, analysed 1,000 television adverts over a two-month period alongside a survey of 2,000 people and LGBT+ specific focus groups.
The results found that 60% of those surveyed believed that, when represented, LGBT+ community are shown in a negative way often supporting “tokenistic roles”. On top of that, same-sex relationships were rarely seen as part of a family unit.
The advertising industry is also failing to represent diversity within the community, rarely showing bisexual, gender fluid and transgender people.
This perception was replicated within LGBT+ focus groups, who felt advertisers resorted to stereotypes such as lesbians as ‘butch’, gay men as ‘camp’ or showing gay characters in a party scenes.
Salmon adds: “Our study, and the focus groups we conducted alongside it, showed that despite the lip service paid to diversity, there’s still a long way to go before we have authentic representation in television ads.”
The closing date for written submissions is 10 July 2019.