Positive LGBT+ representation in ads drops, but marketers don't see the problem

Survey was commissioned by Karmarama.

Diesel: brand launched campaign during Pride month
Diesel: brand launched campaign during Pride month

Less than two-thirds (65%) of Britain’s LGBT+ population feel representation in ads has been positive – a 9% drop from last year, according Karmarama’s second annual LGBT+ survey in partnership with Gay Times.

The research – which was conducted by YouGov and compiled the views of 6,428 British consumers (754 of whom identified as LGBT+) and 150 marketing decision-makers – found that just a third (36%) of LGBT+ respondents felt ads were reflective of the community, a 12% drop from last year’s findings.

While four in five (82%) respondents claimed that LGBT+ representation in ads is tokenistic, only a quarter of marketers (25%) felt that their business does not successfully engage with the LGBT+ community.

Just a third (32%) of marketers surveyed said that their campaigns and events engage with the LGBT+ community independently of Pride celebrations, while 84% of LGBT+ consumers want brands to make an effort to better connect with them outside of Pride month.

"This research shows that we as an industry are failing to make proper progress on representation," Ben Bilboul, chief executive of Karmarama, said. 

"Too often, our industry’s commitment to LGBT+ inclusion does not translate into meaningful, long-term change. Consumers are smart and they can see when brand purpose is and is not authentic.

"Equal representation has to be part of a company’s entire culture and at every single level."

The past month, which is Pride month, has seen work from Nike, Puma, Levi’s and Diesel. However, Tom Stevens, director of marketing for Pride in London, encourages brands to connect with the LGBT+ community throughout the year. 

Tag Warner, chief executive of Gay Times, said: "Although the results may not show the most positive picture, they clearly demonstrate that we need to work harder and smarter as an industry. 

"We’re encouraged to see consumers demanding more from brands – especially when it comes to committing to the community outside of Pride." 

Warner urged marketers to consider LGBT+ representation as a "year-round responsibility and not a calendar celebration".

In March, Gay Times hosted a digital festival in an effort to create a virtual safe space for the LGBT+ community during the coronavirus lockdown.

The publication also collaborated with Skittles on an initiative to connect LGBT+ people through "letters filled with Pride".

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