New research from creative transformation firm WPP explores LGBTQ+ marketing and its future, providing brands, advertisers, marketing communicators and others in the industry with actionable data and insights to help build a more inclusive future.
The new study, Beyond the Rainbow, from Unite, WPP’s LGBTQ+ community, and Choreograph, WPP’s global data products and tech company, surveyed 7,500 LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ people in the US, UK, and Canada to better understand their perceptions and experiences of viewing LGBTQ+ identities in media and advertising.
The research releases insightful new data calling for more authentic representation of LGBTQ+ identities in advertising, the need for long-term support beyond Pride month and the role of queer media in culture and brand communications.
“In a world where the LGBTQ+ community continues to face discrimination and violent attacks—both in the workplace and in life—the power that our industry has to create change should not be underestimated,” said Michael Houston, president of WPP in the US, in a news release. “As a global company of over 100,000 creative thinkers and makers, WPP has a responsibility to educate and empower our people, our clients, and our allies to positively and meaningfully influence the cultural representation of the LGBTQ+ community through marketing, advertising and communications. Right now is an incredible moment and opportunity for brands around the world to use their influence to impact society for good.”
Key research highlights:
Among young people, queer media has become truly mainstream
More than nine in 10 (93 percent) LGBTQ+ 18–24 year olds and 85 percent of non-LGBTQ+ 18–24 year olds actively seek out queer media, proving its universal appeal.
Despite widespread appeal, the quality and quantity of queer media needs improvement
Just 38 percent of those who seek out queer content are satisfied with the way LGBTQ+ people are represented, and 2 out of 3 LGBTQ+ people want to see more queer representation.
More than half of LGBTQ+ people are still not completely out at work
Only 40 percent are completely open about their sexuality with colleagues, while 50 percent are open about their gender identity.
There’s an income gap when it comes to being out at work
Those on the highest incomes were 37 percent more likely to be completely open at work than those on the lowest incomes.
The annual change of logo may be where communications start but shouldn’t end
About half (52 percent) of LGBTQ+ people said they do like it when brands change their logos to the rainbow flag colors during Pride month. However, there’s a clear desire for more year-round support, as three out of four LGBTQ+ people and half of non- LGBTQ+ people think brands should do more to support LGBTQ+ people outside Pride month.
The report explores LGBTQ+ identity, media, and communications today, and provides commentary on how that might evolve tomorrow. It offers actionable insights and suggestions from industry experts on how brands can succeed in what will be a more informed future of LGBTQ+ marketing.
“As is painfully clear, the LGBTQ+ community’s needs go far beyond Pride month. WPP’s study helps companies better understand the challenges LGBTQ+ employees and customers are experiencing and where companies can lean into building a more inclusive workplace and brand,” said Jay Brown, senior vice president of programs, research, and training for the Human Rights Campaign, in the release. “That helps with employee engagement, customer loyalty and a company’s bottom line. And beyond that, it can help make the world safer and more welcoming for us all. We’re glad to have WPP Unite as a partner in this work.”
As brands look to engage with the LGBTQ+ community during Pride month and beyond, it may help to focus on issues of public interest such as raising awareness of legislation affecting the LGBTQ+ community—which 52 percent of LGBTQ+ people would like to see in future advertising. The study aims to show how brands can meaningfully acknowledge and connect with the LGBTQ+ people within their audiences—especially brands hesitant to engage—stay up to date with changing attitudes towards sexuality and gender identity, and create more effective LGBTQ+ brand communications which go beyond Pride month.
“Our goal in launching Beyond the Rainbow is to help shed light on opportunities to create inclusivity and broader acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community beyond just Pride month,” said David Adamson, founder and UK co-chair for WPP Unite, in the release. “As more people identify under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, being genuine and inclusive in everything we do is more crucial than ever for brands to be relevant. At WPP, we can help advise on the best approach for inclusivity and representation, reflective of today’s changing culture.”
WPP Unite partnered with Choreograph to design and field a bespoke mixed method survey. 3,500 LGBTQ+ people and 4,000 non-LGBTQ+ people were surveyed across the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. WPP Unite also partnered with Black Pride, Diva Magazine, HRC and MyGwork who shared the survey with their audiences to ensure robust sample sizes of groups underrepresented by existing research. Beyond the Rainbow was written by Zoe Bowen-Jones and Devon Esper from Wavemaker.
The research was spearheaded by an all-queer team from WPP Unite with representation from BCW, Choreograph, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Hogarth, Landor & Fitch, EssenceMediacom, The&Partnership, VMLY&R and Wavemaker.