What is your opinion on the current state of LGBTQ+ representation in the advertising industry?
Caroline Henry, Senior Writer and queer/nonbinary person (she/her and they/them pronouns): Speaking as a queer person, I think we’ve merely dipped our toes in the ocean of LGBTQ+ representation. Brands like Wildfang and shows like Queer Eye are definitely helping further representation, but we’ve got a long way to go, especially regarding LGBTQ+ POC.
John Line, Sr. Account Director and gay person (he/him pronouns): When I look at the industry as a whole, while it has long been progressive and inclusive, there aren’t many examples of out and proud LGBTQ+ people in the most senior agency positions (CCO, CSO, CEO). I think it’s important that change, and I believe that will change with time.
Do you think LGBTQ marketing is seen as a trend or a real need for businesses?
John: It’s probably a little of both. LGBTQ+ consumers represent buying power of $917B+. That’s a substantial market for companies, and they ignore the LGBTQ+ community at their peril. That said, there’s definitely a trend right now of brands getting involved with and supporting Pride – which is great. It used to be a major risk for brands to participate, and I think that has lessened over the years as our community has gained more acceptance (though there are still so many boycott threats and angry comments on social media). I’m interested to see if the trend of involvement continues or if we’re hitting the apex.
How can brands be more authentic in the way they engage the LGBTQ community?
One: Hire and/or promote LGBTQ+ people to positions of power.
Two: Like engaging any community, your brand should have sound intentions. One of our account folks (and contributor to the brand guide) Joey Gale, put it best: Ask yourself, what is the intent and what is the impact? Addressing both, along with unpacking the Pride Brand Guide for your marketing efforts, will help your brand come across more authentically to the LGBTQ+ community.
Three: See point one.
Do brands risk damaging their perception in the eyes of the community if they don’t show support?
Caroline: It depends. For example, I don’t need to see support from toilet paper. I believe toilet paper is supportive of all people who go to the bathroom (which is everyone). However, if a specific toilet paper brand was involved in, say, a Twitter fight with a homophobic person and they didn’t stand up for the LGBTQ+ community, you bet their perception would be damaged.
Outside of advertising/marketing where can brands look for inspiration on how to embrace the LGBTQ+ community?
Caroline: I’d look to other culture-makers: Film, books, music, etc. “Pose” on FX is doing a phenomenal job embracing the LGBTQ+ community, as is Queer Eye, them. Magazine, Janelle Monaé, Lizzo, and of course your local LGBTQ+ chamber of commerce. But again, don’t underestimate your LGBTQ+ employees’ wisdom: All the inspiration you need is probably within your company.
Where is the line between inclusion and "rainbow-washing" for a communication agency running a LGBTQ+ campaign for one of its clients?
Caroline: That’s kind of the crux of it all, isn’t it? If you follow the Pride Brand Guide and find your client’s Why, back it up with solid reasoning, and design with purpose, you’re probably being inclusionary and responsible. A tell-tale sign of rainbow-washing is a lack of depth: If I tap on your rainbow banner and it doesn’t go to any content related to the LGBTQ+ community, I’m not buying it. If your brand is only showing straight representation 11 months out of the year, I’m not buying it.
As we reach the end of Pride Month, are there any brands that celebrated it well in your opinion?
Caroline: Unilever is doing the most with their United We Stand campaign – it’s thoughtful, well-rounded, and they’re partnering with reputable LGBTQ+ experts and influencers to deliver content that entertains and informs.
Also, the Gillette ad where the dad teaches his son how to shave – that one was incredible not just because of the story but because of the way they stood up for the LGBTQ+ community when they received backlash. Seeing brands stand up for marginalized communities when challenged is the strongest instance of allyship I can think of.
John: And I’ve been impressed with what a mainstream retailer like Target has done – with Pride displays in their stories, LGBTQ+ employee stories on their website, and backing it all up with a $100K donation to GLSEN. It hits all the right marks for me.