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Positive perception of LGBTQ+ representation within advertising drops


  • Positive perception of LGBTQ+ representation in advertising falls from 74%[1] to 65%* in 2020, while brands’ portrayal of LGBTQ+ community still viewed as tokenistic
  • Just 32% of marketers engage with the LGBTQ+ community independently of Pride, despite 84% of LGBTQ+ consumers calling for it


Only two thirds (65%) of LGBTQ+ people in Britain currently feel that representation of the community in adverts is positive, inspirational and pushes boundaries – a significant (9%) drop from the three quarters (74%) of those that felt this way in 2019. The second annual research – commissioned by Karmarama, part of Accenture Interactive in partnership with GAY TIMES and conducted by YouGov – surveyed more than 6,500** consumers and marketing decision makers to build a picture of LGBTQ+ inclusivity in Britain, and reveals representation in adverts has regressed significantly in the eyes of the community.


Currently, just over a third (36%) of LGBTQ+ respondents feel adverts are truly reflective of LGBTQ+ people, a sharp decline from almost half (48%) of last year’s panel. The majority (82%) of those surveyed also feel that representation of LGBTQ+ people is tokenistic – almost exactly the same as in 2019 (81%) – with brands more focused on the optics of diversity than addressing diversity related issues head on.  


Beyond Pride


This tokenism extends to brands’ activity during Pride Month, which is a marquee moment for brands’ inclusivity campaigns in Britain. Only a third (32%) of the marketers surveyed said their campaigns and events engage with the LGBTQ+ community independently of Pride celebrations, despite a huge proportion of LGBTQ+ consumers (84%) wanting brands to make an effort to engage with the community outside of Pride. 


With more than two thirds (67%) stating they’d be more willing to spend with a brand that engaged with LGBTQ+ people, there is a clear opportunity for brands to tune in to the wants and needs of the community.


Marketers need to do more


Despite the clear and growing disappointment of the LGBTQ+ community, marketers seem largely unaware of their frustrations. Only a quarter (25%) of marketers do not agree their business successfully represents and engages with the LGBTQ+ community, and less than half (43%) of marketers agree their business sense checks or tests their messaging with LGBTQ+ audiences.


Ben Bilboul, CEO of Karmarama, part of Accenture Interactive, said: “This research shows that we as an industry are failing to make proper progress on representation. Too often, our industry’s commitment to LGBTQ+ 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.” 


Tag Warner, CEO 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. Marketers should respond by thinking of LGBTQ+ marketing as a year-round responsibility, and not a calendar celebration. The consumer base is more diverse and aware than ever, which means what was ‘good’ a number of years ago simply doesn’t cut it in 2020. We should be taking this year of reflection to engage with our colleagues and the community and ask their honest opinions – the time to start is now.”


Authentic Allyship: Five steps for brands

  • Diversity of thought: Hire an inclusive workforce to ensure that all outputs – creative or otherwise – are based on a range of diverse perspectives. It is also important that LGBTQ+ representation is intersectional, which enables creative to be more inclusive and nuanced
  • Listen to customers: To avoid stereotypes and oversimplifying the LGBTQ+ experience, act on customer insights and sense check your communications with the LGBTQ+ community when it comes to creating campaigns 
  • Become a year-round ally: Ensure your representation of the LGBTQ+ community extends past Pride celebrations. Authentic representation should be an ongoing commitment, not just a moment in time
  • Engage with underlying causes: Work with dedicated LGBTQ+ organisations and get involved with LGBTQ+ causes to ensure brand commitment goes beyond the bottom line 
  • Define your commitment: Authentic LGBTQ+ representation must be a growth journey and a constant learning curve for brands. Set out a clear road map for achieving brand goals that focus on a long-term commitment to inclusive representation


About the research 


*The consumer sample from 2019 was also based on respondents that had ever seen LGBT+ actor, character or storylines within advertising campaigns.


**Based on a survey of 6,428 consumers, of which 754 were LGBTQ+, and 150 marketing decision makers, of which 19 were LGBTQ+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th – 16th June 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures for the consumer sample have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).


2019 consumer sample size was 2052 adults, of which 740 were LGBTQ+ respondents. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th – 29th May 2019.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).


Karmarama is the UK’s most progressive creative agency, part of Accenture Interactive, working across advertising, PR, data-driven communications, mobile platforms and products, digital and innovation. The agency is known for its ability to blend creativity, digital and data, to help brands better engage with consumers. Or as Karmarama calls it – Connected Creativity. It is one of the most effective agencies in the UK and has won the DMA Grand Prix for the last two successive years, in 2017 for its work for the Army. It was again the highest ranked creative agency in the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to Work For in 2019.