Why does LGBT+ Representation in Advertising Matter?
In a time where people can fast forward through commercials or purchase streaming services without ads, it can be easy to assume that the ways in which companies market their products no longer matters. However, advertisements are intended to be representations of people, including what they buy, who they love, and what their families look like. As such, commercials can be a way to normalize experiences or to make it clear that some people’s normal is, well, abnormal.
In recent years, some of the world’s biggest brands have taken notice to the need to market toward all of the types of people in their target audience. Here are some compilation videos of commercials from world-famous brands, with ads shown in different parts of the world:
Why does LGBT+ Representation in Christmas Ads Matter?
The time of year known as “the Christmas season” is one that encompasses a number of holidays including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Ōmisoka, as well as New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. As such, it is the time of year when most adults and children have a break from work and school and are at home together. It is common for families to visit other relatives. This makes it an opportune time for television networks to air family-friendly shows and movies to attract those who are looking to watch something special as a family. Advertisers know this and often choose seasonal commercials that further the feelings of family and togetherness as a way to entice viewers to continue that cozy moment by including their products into the holiday time.
Richard Miles, creative director at Therapy and PrideAM member, said: "Earlier in the year, it really felt like we were making progress as representation of the LGBT+ community began slowly improving, but this Christmas it feels we’ve gone back a step. There are a lot of kids out there watching TV whose lives could genuinely be changed for the better just for seeing two guys or girls kiss or see a trans person in an everyday situation. The ad industry has the power to make hugely positive change and we would urge brands to really use this opportunity as a force for good."
Why Make Changes? What’s in It For Advertisers?
It is estimated that nearly 1 in 16 consumers across Britain identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual; and according to a Stonewall report gay consumers are thought to be worth between £70-81 billion annually in Britain alone. Three in five gay, lesbian or bisexual people – that’s over two million British consumers – are more likely to buy products if they think a company is gay-friendly, and nearly half are more likely to buy products that use images of gay people to sell their products.
In America, Forbes reports that the US LGBT+ community has an estimated $1 trillion in spending power and $5 trillion globally. With around 4 to 7% of the population identifying as LGBT+ and 48% of those more likely to consider themselves “spenders” (compared to 32% of the general population), inclusive marketing efforts equate to a huge, untapped market with plenty of opportunities.
What Can You, A Consumer Do to Encourage LGBT+ Inclusive Advertising?
It can be easy to think that one person cannot possibly have any control or power over how huge multi-billion dollar companies choose to advertise their products. For many decades, this was true, as companies relied on their marketing departments and they made decisions based on tiny focus groups or assumptions about the general public. However, social media has changed this by amplifying the voices of everyone!
When you see an advertisement that is inclusive and supportive of the LGBT+ community, speak up about it! Use your social media to share your approval and appreciation for that company and for that ad. You may be able to find the commercial on Youtube and link it with your social media post or you may choose simply to tag the company in your post. Either way, letting the company know that consumers want to see inclusion shows them when they are making choices you support. Plus, since their competitors are likely watching, it lets other companies know what catches your eye and increases the chances that you’ll buy that particular brand.
In addition, as many companies focus on representation of white gay people, you may wish to be especially vocal when you see advertisers include gay people of color, transgender people, or people with non-binary gender identities. This can not only encourage marketing departments to continue to focus on inclusion, it can let them know that diversity matters to you too. Plus, by highlighting your support, you are also showing support for people of color and for those who may otherwise rarely feel supported in a world where intersectionality too often erases or minimizes their inclusion in the LGBT+ community.