Consumer insights platform, DISQO, and Do The WeRQ – a grassroots organization working to increase LGBTQ+ representation and share-of-voice in the advertising industry – have released new research on Americans’ views of LGBTQ+ representation in the marketing content they consume. In a survey of 10,000+ people between June 10 and June 21, 2021, mid-Pride month, nearly 20% of respondents said they did not recall seeing any LGBTQ+ advertising. More than 27% of respondents also said that brands should create less LGBTQ+ focused work.
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“Each year during Pride, a large volume of brands promote LGBTQ+-themed advertising and programs to demonstrate support for our community, and DISQO helped explore how people received these messages. Were they breaking through inside and outside of our community? We found there is more ‘werq’ to do,” said Graham Nolan (he/him/his), Do The WeRQ Co-Chair, Storytelling and Partnerships. “The findings show a need to support LGBTQ+ ideas and representation in advertising – and the importance of having LGBTQ+ talent creating those ads.”
LGBTQ+ ads not being seen by some, especially older and non-LGBTQ+ people
More people said they did not recall seeing any LGBTQ+ ads in older age groupings. Less than 13% of respondents 18-24 years-old said they did not recall seeing any ads, and less than 14% of those 25-34 years-old said the same. However, 19.2% of people 35-44 years-old said they did not recall seeing ads, and the percentage increased with each older grouping: 45-54 (20.15%), 55-64 (23.2%), 65+ (28.7%).
Of respondents who identified as LGBTQ+, only 6.34% said they did not recall seeing any LGBTQ+ ads, whereas 21% of those who said they were not LGBTQ+ said they did not recall seeing any such ads.
Together, the data suggest that LGBTQ+ ad campaigns may not be placed in media where non-LGBTQ+ and older people are likely to see them, at least not to an extent that LGBTQ+ stories are fully in the mainstream.
Some don’t want to see LGBTQ+ ads
Overall, only 41.8% of respondents said that media and advertising are “sufficiently inclusive of LGBTQ+” people. Yet, more than 27% of respondents said there should be less LGBTQ+ focused work. Among respondents who said there should be less LGBTQ+ content, there were demographic differences. Older people were more likely to say there should be less LGBTQ+ content, 55-64 year-olds (55%) and 65+ (35.6%). Among ethnicities, people identifying as White had the highest percentage of people saying there should be less LGBTQ+ content (30.2%), while those identifying as African American and Asian had the lowest percentages, 20.57% and 15.38%, respectively.
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Lack of support for LGBTQ+ advertising and media professionals
Minority communities may be marginalized in creating advertising content. Only 43.6% of respondents said that it was important to them that advertising and content are made with the involvement of people who are part of depicted communities (e.g., LGBTQ+ and multicultural communities). However, 70.55% of respondents who self-identified as LGBTQ+ said that it was important to them, a stark contrast to the 40.7% of non-LGBTQ+ identifying respondents who said the same.
Only about half of non-LGBTQ+ respondents (51.9%) believe that LGBTQ+ people working in advertising can make good contributions to non-LGBTQ+ content. Whereas 75.6% of LGBTQ+ individuals believe LGBTQ+ workers can make good contributions to non-LGBTQ+ content.
Regardless of LGBTQ+ identity, fewer than half of respondents (33.36%) believe that most advertising representing specific communities (e.g. multicultural, LGBTQ+) is made by people in that community.
Generational changes & intersectionality
More than 84% of respondents who were 18-24 years-old said there should be roughly the same or even more LGBTQ+-focused brand and media content; 32.3% called for more. Nearly 29% in this age group said roughly the same amount of content should be produced – with an increase in the diversity of who is represented.
- More than 77% of people self-identifying as being of Hispanic origin said that the same amount or more LGBTQ+ content should be produced; 28.7% said roughly the same amount should be produced, but with greater diversity of people represented.
- Nearly 80% of African-American respondents (79.42%) said there should be the same or more LGBTQ+ focused content. Thirty-one percent (31%) said that roughly the same amount of LGBTQ+ work should be produced, only with greater diversity of who is represented.
- More than 84% of Asian respondents said that the same or more LGBTQ+ content should be produced; 33.6% said that roughly the same amount should be created, only with greater diversity of who is represented.
- Survey respondents identifying as Caucasian / White had the highest percentage of respondents saying there should be less LGBTQ+ focused content (30.2%). However, nearly 26% of those saying the amount of content should be roughly the same said that the diversity of who is represented should be increased.
“Our findings confirm that marketers are successful in targeting their ads to intended LGBTQ+ audiences but raise questions about what more can be done to ally with the community around visibility,” said David Grabert (he/him/his), VP Brand & Communications, DISQO. “We’ve come very far, but I look forward to the day when everyone sees and welcomes authentic representation of LGBTQ+ people in content.”
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