LGBTQ+ community ‘least well represented’ in advertising

Marketers are falling short when it comes to portraying different gender identities and sexualities in advertising, new research shows. Diageo says brands must work with the community if they are to get it right.

British consumers believe the LGBTQ+ community is portrayed least accurately in advertising, with many consumers questioning the authenticity of brands’ commitment to social diversity.

The research, presented exclusively today (5 October) during a panel at the Festival of Marketing, was undertaken by not for profit organisation PrideAM and market research company Simpson Carpenter.

It questioned 500 members of the general public, as well as 275 people from the LGBTQ+ community, on their thoughts about the representation of people with different gender identities and sexualities in advertising.

Both groups agree it is important for advertising and marketing to accurately portray diversity in society (72% of the general public versus 83% of the LGBTQ+ community), while 60% of the general public believe it should be a priority (versus 67% of LGBTQ+ community).

The research also shows the general public and LGBTQ+ community agree that people of different gender identities (40%) and sexualities (33%) are least accurately portrayed. Almost one third (29%) of consumers believe people of different religions are not accurately portrayed, meanwhile.

Diageo moves towards gender neutral advertising

Speaking on the same panel, Diageo’s Anita Robinson says the business has been working towards making its advertising gender neutral for the past eight years. Its Smirnoff brand, which is known for championing LGBTQ+ rights, is now looking to give a voice to the non-binary community. The new campaign will be coming out in November.

Robinson, European category director for vodka, gin and rum, says brands can avoid being labelled as ‘inauthentic’ by working with the right community groups when creating advertising campaigns.

“There are people waiting to jump on you when you get this wrong. You have to work with the community, know your consumer and it’s also about consistency and building that message [over time]. That’s how we do it,” she said.

The research claims there is a clear business case for being more inclusive in advertising, with 35% of consumers being more likely to buy from brands which accurately portray different minority groups in their advertising. This figure stands at 41% among the LGBTQ+ community. Diageo’s Robinson agrees.

Brands with a clear purpose, grow three times faster than those that don’t.

Anita Robinson, Diageo

“Diageo sees this as a mass message, not a niche one. We measure success by looking at whether we are moving brand meaning. Brands with a clear purpose, grow three times faster than those that don’t. And at a simplistic level, when we had special edition Smirnoff bottles with Tesco, we sold more than when we had a price promotion on, and that’s the holy grail as you don’t want to be selling on a discount,” she says.

When it comes to specific sectors, supermarkets and food and drink brands are the highest performing, while automotive, home and DIY and financial services have most work to do, according to the research.

Wider societal issue

Emma Basden-Smith, director at Simpson Carpenter, said: “This is a wider societal issue. The majority of the wider general public believes this is important and a priority for the industry. Unfortunately both groups agree the industry seems to be falling short, with over half of consumers feeling that advertising and marketing do not accurately portray people like them.”

READ MORE: How brands can fly the flag for the LGBT community

There is also some cynicism among consumers, however, when it comes to the authenticity of advertisers’ commitment to diversity. Over half (52%) of Brits believe that brands only pay lip service to social diversity, while 55% of consumers believe that ads give the impression of “trying too hard” to reflect diversity.