Is your client’s brand queer enough?

iList judge and Chair of Outvertising, Mark Runacus ask whether brands are doing enough to support the LGBTQ+ community.

iList judge and Chair of Outvertising, Mark Runacus ask whether brands are doing enough to support the LGBTQ+ community.

I do hope that doesn’t sound like a strange question to you. It’s a very serious one, that has important commercial and cultural implications.

That’s because our society is undergoing a seismic shift in the way we define our sexual and gender identities, rendering an audience definition like ABC1 Female as almost meaningless.

Here’s the statistics: in a YouGov survey last year 56% of 18-24-year olds said they no longer thought of themselves as 100% straight. Yes, more than half. And it’s not just a Gen Z and Millennial thing; 11% of the over 60s gave the same answer. And both figures were up significantly on the previous survey in 2015.

And I’m sure you’ve noticed how many of us are shunning traditional binary definitions of gender.

Is your client’s advertising reflecting this? If not, then I suggest you are possibly failing to make a strong emotional connection between your client’s brand and their audience.

And that’s one of the things we focus on at Outvertising. We lobby brands and their creative and media agency partners to improve LGBTQ+ representation in their advertising because we know it helps brands sell, better.

We also want UK advertising to have a much better perception in our society and we maintain that improved representation is one important way to do that. Another important role that inclusive advertising can fulfil is in helping create positive role models. I grew up with no positive LGBTQ+ role models. As a result I didn’t know how I could be my authentic self. I remember my Mum discussing camp men and saying, “He’s one of them you know.” She would often follow that with “But he’s really quite nice.” I also remember thinking I was never going to have a partner and my only career choice would be to follow in the footsteps of Danny La Rue. Google him – he was a hugely popular drag queen in the 1970s. Thanks Mum – but cue years of therapy. Mum’s great now by the way, and I really would love to do drag and in a very well-adjusted way. Isn’t Ru Paul just fantastic? Oh, and me and the hubbie have been together for nearly 19 years so pretty OK on that front too.

The Outvertising team are all volunteers who work in marketing and advertising, and our Not For Profit organisation survives on very limited resources, but we do what we can to help guide brands on their journey to more inclusive advertising. Earlier this year we produced a comprehensive guide to creating LGBTQ+ inclusive advertising. It’s free, and you can download it from our website. It contains practical advice and case studies with results.

And if you want to help us surface tomorrow’s role models and make UK advertising more powerful, more creative, and more likeable, get involved. LGBTQ+ and straight allies are very welcome.

Mark Runacus MBE is Chair of Outvertising, Chair of the Data and Marketing Association, and Co-Founder of creative agency Wax/On. He also presents the fortnightly advertising podcast Wax Lyrical. Mark is one of the judges for the iList, a free initiative to galvanise the industry into becoming a more inclusive, diverse place to work and celebrate the role models who are driving this change. 

Last updated 01 May 2024