The silence this Pride is deafening

Brands usually so active in supporting the queer community are silent, afraid of getting it wrong.

June is Pride Month, but we have yet to see any stand-out campaigns. Nic Alford, New Business Manager at BBH London and member of the IPA iList 2024, asks why so many brands are silent and explains why showing up for what’s right is more than just wanting to... it’s about doing the work.

Do you remember the images of the streets of London during lockdown? A place synonymous with crowds, traffic and noise - completely empty.

That’s what this year’s Pride feels like.

Millions of people will line streets up and down the country to applaud the brave souls fighting for equality, to remember those who died for the right to love who you love, to show up for your queer friends, and to advocate for equality. Soho will still be bursting at the seams with glitter and queer joy, and the streets will become rivers of plastic cups.

But the silence will persist.

Pride 2024 is set to be the quietest yet

The stories from the first London march in 1972 are full of optimism, promise, achievement. 200 people standing for what was right. Over the last 52 years, the movement has continued to grow, with over 1 million people attending the march in 2022. Brands would rush to update their logos to a rainbow version, sandwich fillings were dedicated to the cause, and limited edition rainbow t-shirts sold out in every high-street store. Kantar data indicates that between 2017 and 2019, the spend on Pride-related marketing grew by approximately 20% annually. 

However, it’s now mid-June 2024 and I’ve hardly heard a peep. No controversies, no scandals, but also no stand-out campaigns. Against the backdrop of increasing hate crimes (hate crimes against Trans+ people have increased by 186% in the last 5 years [Stonewall]), transphobia in parliament, the “war on woke”, and shareholders pressuring brands to scrutinise LGBTQ+-themed marketing, brands are cautious of receiving the level of backlash that BudLight got last year.

The ripple effect is so disappointing. Influencers are expecting a 75% decrease in their income from Pride marketing which they are putting down to weakened appetites from brands amid anti-LGBTQ+ conservatives. Brands usually so active in supporting the queer community are silent, afraid of getting it wrong.

What a privilege to decide when you want to support the queer community and when you don’t.

The most recent IPA Bellwether Report found that UK marketing budgets were at their strongest levels in almost a decade. However, Kantar’s 2024 Media Trends & Predictions report anticipates a reduced allocation of budget towards ‘niche’ campaigns, including Pride, and the ANA found that only 2.5% of all advertising spend is invested in the LGBTQ+ community. So where’s our slice of the pie?

When I’ve spoken with clients and brands about activating for Pride, it often begins with them wanting a colourful logo and ends with me giving them a list of reading material, tips for creating an internal network, and the beginnings of a manifesto for change. Showing up for what’s right is more than just wanting to. It’s about doing the work.

Nic Alford, New Business Manager, BBH London and IPA iLister 2024

Of course, there’s a lot of fun having a pint in a paper cup with a big rainbow on the side surrounded by friends and family. But that can also come with an overwhelming dollop of guilt that we are free to celebrate queerness when it’s not the same for everyone (same-sex relationships are criminalised in a third of countries around the world).

I think this context is important to consider when you’re thinking about your Pride celebrations this year.

Pride began as a movement and still needs that mentality

There is an argument that Pride is quieter because brands are moving away from the trivial 30-day rainbow celebration and towards the year-round investment into the queer community. This could be through charity partnerships, education programmes, or inclusive brand platforms. It could be working with queer talent or ensuring that your business is a safe space where your LGBTQIA+ employees are free to be themselves - or even ‘silently working on what they believe in’ which is what Mastercard have said they’re doing.

You can call me a sceptic, but I don’t buy it. You all wanted a slice of the pink pound - which is now estimated to be worth $30 trillion - so now it’s your turn to spend some cash. You all made this bed, where the brand with the biggest flag was the biggest ally. So you’ve got to lie in it.

Still not seeing accurate representation in our advertising

The ever-inspiring Marty Davies recently wrote about an ad for Guinness from 1995 featuring two men in a relationship that didn’t run because the brand wasn’t brave enough to face the backlash. Still today, we are not seeing accurate representation in our advertising. According to Channel 4 research, LGBTQIA+ communities appear in just 3% of UK ads. Depressingly, this hasn’t increased since 2019. And this is just step one. Inclusive storytelling, emotional resonance, the intersectionality of queerness. All of these things need to be considered.

When the going gets tough, the queer community needs to know who is fighting for them. We need to know who we can rely on. Who will keep us safe? Who will stand up for us when we can no longer stand?

What we don’t want is brands sitting scared and silent. Because we are scared. We were scared in 1972 and we are scared today. But we weren’t silent then, and we cannot afford to be silent today.

Silence means you are complicit. Silence means regression.

Last year Outvertising asked brands to ‘stand your ground’, to keep those ads running and those flags waving. I think the ask this year is quite different. 

Speak up. Fill the streets. Make some noise.


Nic Alford is New Business Manager at BBH London and was named on the IPA iList 2024 for his work championing queer talent and helping clients understand the importance of authentic Pride celebrations.

For more guidance and inspiration on driving authentic inclusion, visit the IPA Talent & Diversity Hub


The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 11 June 2024