The Gay List: 10 of adland's LGBT+ role models

As a new campaign aims to encourage people to celebrate their true selves in the workplace, Campaign asks some successful LGBT+ members of our industry to share their experiences.

Thousands took to the streets last weekend for the Pride in London march. And after the successful but hard-fought campaign to allow same-sex marriage, you’d be forgiven for thinking the equality battle has been won.

But Pride in London’s latest research shows that nearly seven in ten LGBT+ people continue to feel the need to lie about their sexuality or gender identity. And only half are out at work. 

"The sad truth is, it’s just harder to be your true self if you happen to be an LGBT+ person," the organisation’s marketing director, Alison Camps, says.

A new ad campaign created by WCRS, "#nofilter", aims to change that. "Our message is that we don’t need to live our lives through a filter of what we think will make us acceptable. Instead, we will unite behind our right to simply be ourselves," Camps adds.

There are many in our industry who are speaking out and, by doing so, are helping to break down prejudices and foster acceptance, showing future generations that you can both be yourself and be successful.

Campaign has teamed up with PrideAM, the industry’s first LGBT+ group, to profile some of adland’s most successful role models. Let’s celebrate our differences because, ultimately, there is more that unites than divides us. 

Michael Brunt

Chief marketing officer and managing director of circulation

The Economist group

Career highlights Brunt is responsible for a third of The Economist Group’s revenues worldwide and is a member of the management board. Since joining The Economist Group in 2006, Brunt has been open about his sexuality with staff and shareholders. He mentors young, diverse team members and was a founder and launch member of Wilde, The Economist’s LGBT and ally network. Brunt also promoted the launch in March of Pride and Prejudice, the world’s first global summit on the detrimental economic effects of LGBT discrimination.

Brunt’s experience "I found the advertising industry surprisingly intimidating as a graduate and chose to keep my sexuality a secret for the first few years of my career. Clearly, for my own personal well-being and sanity, this wasn’t sustainable, but it took a move to a London agency before I came out. I wish that the 21-year-old me had read an article like this – proving that you can be openly gay and become the CMO of a great brand, or work hard to achieve a senior agency position regardless of your difference. Our industry needs to do more and I’m proud to be helping to launch PrideAM – it’s crazy that it has taken us so long to develop an LGBT network for advertising."

Richard Cristofoli

Marketing director


Career highlights Cristofoli joined Debenhams in 2011 and sits on its executive board. His campaigns have been recognised as playing a key role in Debenhams’ improved business performance in the past two years. His responsibilities were recently extended to include marketing and creative across all channels. 

Cristofoli previously spent six years at WHSmith, latterly as group marketing director across its high street, travel and Funky Pigeon divisions. He has also held a senior marketing role at Sainsbury’s.

Cristofoli’s experience "Being gay is a key part of who I am but it doesn’t define me. I’ve always held the view that if I ever felt uncomfortable within a business or culture, I’d move on – from the belief that that business ultimately will not retain the breadth of talent needed to compete and is unlikely to have a long-term future. Thankfully, or possibly because of that, I’ve never felt I can’t be who I am at work." 

Jan Gooding

Group brand director


Career highlights Since 2008, Gooding has been group brand director at Aviva. She also chairs the Publishers Audience Measurement Company and LGBT equality charity Stonewall. Gooding has previously held senior marketing positions at British Gas and BT, and helped establish and lead two brand consultancies: Antennae and Bluedoor. 

Gooding’s experience "Having initially been advised not to be out at work when I joined Aviva, I discovered that it detrimentally affected my performance. After a year, I ‘came out’ and have never looked back. I am able to be my authentic self at all times. I laugh more, I am more creative, and I don’t waste energy covering up my private life. Most importantly, I have shown that I trust the people I work with.

"My colleagues both inside Aviva and across the industry have accepted me without exception. However, I am concerned that not everyone has the same positive experience. Aviva is the only insurance company to rank in the top 100 in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index and actively works at creating a positive environment for LGBT people who work there. I am not aware of any media or advertising agency yet making it into that published list.

"It takes positive action, not words, to make people feel confident that they will not experience discrimination and bullying at work. I learnt the hard way that it is important to be yourself at work, and employers have a critical role to play in making that possible."

Jonathan Mildenhall

Chief marketing officer


Career highlights Mildenhall spent the first 15 years of his career at agencies including Bartle Bogle Hegarty, HHCL and TBWA. In 2006, he joined Coca-Cola as vice-president, global advertising strategy and creative. In 2007, he led the launch of the "Open Happiness" marketing platform – an initiative that contributed to the brand’s most profitable growth period in 20 years and helped increase Coke’s share price from $29 to $81. Coke was named Creative Marketer of the Year at the 2013 Cannes Lions. Mildenhall joined Airbnb in June 2014 after he was headhunted by the company’s chief executive.

Mildenhall’s experience "The industry has been incredibly kind to me and I want to thank everyone who accepted me for what I truly am. I have only experienced two instances of sexual slur – both from male creative directors who should have known better. That said, coming out was hard. I left my first agency, McCann, because I was in the closet and couldn’t bear the thought of letting people down through coming out. Crazy, eh? The second agency I worked for was BBH and it was there that Cindy Gallop marched into my office and said: ‘Jonathan, you are gay, aren’t you?’ Oh God, I thought, the time has come. ‘Er, yes, I am,’ I stuttered. ‘Good. I’m having a party on Saturday and I want you and your boyfriend to be there!’ And with that one exchange, I found my true self and my true voice. A voice that was never closeted again."

Scott Knox

Managing director

Marketing Agencies Association

Career highlights Since joining the Marketing Agencies Association in 2001, Knox has built a membership of 90 agencies. He founded PrideAM in 2015. Knox has also been marketing manager at Endsleigh and set up the graduate division of recruitment company Major Players. 

Knox’s experience "I have to say that my experience of being gay in the industry was a bit naïve: being a white, gay, middle-class man in London is like being in a bubble, as I was having fun. At times, I was a pantomime dame, acting more camp as a way of telling people I was gay without having to say the words.

"Since founding PrideAM, many people have said: ‘But why? I don’t see the problem.’ A few weeks ago, a very senior person followed that statement with: ‘But aren’t there lots of you in our industry, especially in creative departments?’ There is still a long way to go."

Mark Runacus



Career highlights Runacus is a co-owner and planner at Karmarama, non-executive director of the Direct Marketing Association and member of PrideAM. He has also worked at Ogilvy & Mather and Carlson Marketing (now Aimia).

Runacus’ experience "I came out at university and then, like the other 62% of LGBT+ graduates, went back into the closet when I started my first job. I hated the question ‘How was your weekend?’ and I’d often change pronouns when I answered. I’m ashamed that I wore the whispered ‘I know you’re gay but you’re OK’ comments as a badge of pride. 

"Fifteen years later at Ogilvy, I noticed same-sex couples listed in the management directory and this gave me the courage to come out again. I’m now vocal on equality but still come up against barriers – most often denial. The IPA’s targets don’t go far enough."

Matt Scarff


ITV Creative AND Events

Career highlights Scarff is responsible for delivering campaigns to fill more than £270m of promotional airtime on ITV’s channels and services. He leads the creative and events unit based within the broadcaster. Scarff has more than 20 years’ experience in broadcast media and launched Sky Atlantic, ITV Encore and ITVBe. He was previously creative director at Sky, UKTV and BBC Creative. 

SCARFF’S EXPERIENCE "I don’t know whether it’s down to luck, timing or because I work in broadcast, but I’ve always felt supported by the organisations I’ve worked for. Consistently going above and beyond has created opportunities for me to develop skills outside the core remit of being a creative. This has all led to the job I do now. I’m passionate about developing inclusive and diverse cultures in the workplace and, in the last year, I’ve taken on chair roles for both ITV Pride and InterMediaUK. These network groups help deliver LGBT+ best practice to the UK media industry. I’m also a founding member of PrideAM."

Lord Smith


Advertising Standards Authority

Career highlights Smith was a Labour councillor before becoming an MP in 1983 – he was the first openly gay MP in the UK. When Labour came to power in 1997, Smith became secretary of state for culture, media and sport and chairman of the Millennium Commission. This made him the first openly gay cabinet minister of any country. During his time, he restored free admission to national museums and galleries, expanded funding for the arts and sports, and established bodies including Nesta and the Film Council. A peer since 2005, Smith was chairman of the Environment Agency from 2008 to 2014 and has held his current role since 2007. He recently became master of Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Smith’s experience "Being gay in the industry has never been an issue for me – I suppose it has been so widely known for so long that it’s become wonderfully normal. It has, however, given me a determination to make sure there’s real equality in the workplace and to champion diversity of all kinds throughout the industry and beyond. And it’s given me an understanding of how advertising can and should respect minorities and reflect the whole spectrum of our society. Not a bad lesson for an industry regulator!"

Tori Hermione Baker

Global technical product director


Career highlights Baker has more than 15 years’ experience in mobile and digital marketing. She was previously global comms planning director at Joule, where she oversaw the development of mobile comms planning for clients including Unilever. Baker has also worked at Fetch and Steak. 

BAKER’S experience "I represent the ‘L’ and the ‘T’, and you would define me as a trans-lesbian. I recently undertook my transition within the workplace. It hasn’t been easy, as it takes time for people to adapt, feel comfortable and understand. The advertising/media/creative industries today I would define as tolerant but, sadly, not accepting. To ensure creativity and productivity, fostering acceptance is critical. Advertising could learn from the banking industry, whose LGBT policies and networks are over ten years old. It has been tough for me but I know, by leading by example, we can foster change." 

Jade-Tara Joseph

Business director


Career highlights Joseph has more than a decade of experience in media agencies including Starcom Mediavest Group, Manning Gottlieb OMD and Omnicom Media Group. She currently focuses on driving new business at Maxus.

JOSEPH’s experience "I came out later in life. It was nerve-wracking but, as London is so diverse, it seems no-one really cares. I can understand why it would be difficult to be open at work, but why should anyone come into the workplace and hide who they are? I always correct people when I say I am married – to my ‘wife’, not ‘husband’ – and no-one bats an eyelid. I am lucky to have Kirsten Oates as our head of people and culture: she fosters a great environment for everyone. I was shocked to learn from others in the LGBT+ community that they don’t have an HR person to go to if they are experiencing issues in the workplace."