As we enter Pride month, GSK marketer and commercial director at Outvertising Jerry Daykin outlines some do's and don'ts for brands hoping to reach and engage an LGBT+ audience with their media.
The majority of the focus of diversity and representation in advertising, quite rightly, looks at the content we are creating, stories we are telling, and our creative executions.
Beyond that, marketers looking to promote LGBT+ specific content or those wanting to make their comms more LGBT+ inclusive would benefit greatly from a well-thought-out paid media approach.
It's helpful to consider representation behind the camera, and in the partners and media we use If the people helping guide you on this journey have diverse perspectives themselves, you’ll get to a more nuanced output.
While Pride month is a great time to address these points, the true opportunity is all year round. Below are some do's and don'ts for marketers hoping to reach and engage an LGBT+ audience with their media.
Don’t sponsor hate and misinformation
While you can argue that no advertiser aims to do this, due to the complexity of modern digital and multichannel media, it‘s difficult to track exactly where all your adverts appear.
The sad reality is, without proper controls our advertising spends can accidentally fund fake news and hate speech which deliberately spreads misinformation about minorities.
Appearing in these spaces endangers minority consumers, undoes any goodwill you might otherwise generate, and creates notable risks of negative brand association.
There’s reason to be cautious in more mainstream outlets too, with a small minority still associated with fuelling prejudiced views such as anti-trans stories.
Don’t expect sympathy for your messaging if it’s appearing in hateful environments. Organisations like the Conscious Advertising Network or Global Alliance for Responsible Media can help you better understand how to approach this.
To avoid the worst parts of the internet, use brand safety settings available through media agencies or ad tech platforms.
Don’t exclude LGBT+ voices in the process
While it’s essential to use brand safety settings to limit the funding of hate – if used bluntly these tools can accidentally end up excluding minority audiences.
This not only limits your reach to these valuable consumer groups but it also directly cuts off the funding of reporting and content relating to LGBT+ issues and makes it less likely these publications will continue to exist.
A study by Vice found that generic words like ‘lesbian’ and ‘Muslim’ were appearing more frequently on brand’s key-word blocklists than ‘murder’ and ‘rape’.
Adtech platform Cheq found that 73% of positive or neutral LGBT+ content was being misclassified and potentially blocked. Some of the real experts in this field are the diverse publishers themselves who deal with this issue, and safe ways to get around it, every day; consider working with one not just on their own inventory but to improve your overall approach.
Avoid generic keyword blocking in your brand safety approach, and ensure you are not broadly blocking out minority titles.
Do actively appear in high-quality, relevant spaces
Marketers will bode well if they ensure ad campaigns target high-quality LGBT+ media environments (and indeed in all quality spaces).
Focusing on these will not only sidestep many of the above issues, it will also guarantee you reach an audience actively interested in LGBT+ issues, while positively signaling your own commitment and interest in the community.
While it is advantageous to reach the LGBT+ community through print, radio, out-of-home, or even TV programming – you can also find diversity within diversity, with many titles dedicated to specific audiences across the spectrum. It is also possible to amplify your representative creative to a broad audience, through wider mass-reach media.
If you are using a ‘site list’ approach to brand safety, ensure you include a range of LGBT+ media platforms within it, and deliberately look and plan for online and offline media opportunities tailored to this audience.
Do leverage direct media partnerships to fuel content and best practice
It's fair to say that no one knows the LGBT+ community quite like those whose job it is to report on them, reflect them and appeal to them in their content.
Working closely with media partners can be a great way of securing guaranteed reach and media value while working together on shaping content.
Most media platforms are happy to leverage their own editorial expertise and networks to help brands produce content. With them, they bring a lot of nuance and understanding on how to positively shape content for the community.
If working with a partner in this way always agree on your rights to use the content more broadly away from their platform so you can also amplify it to a broader audience. Partner directly with LGBT+ media owners, networks, or dedicated agencies to shape impactful representative content with guaranteed LGBT+ reach.
Do amplify your LGBT+ inclusive campaigns to a broad audience
One of the most powerful ways advertisers can support the LGBT+ audience is through ongoing positive representation in their mainstream advertising - Outvertising exists for this very reason.
It’s not without risks, and many brands have faced a backlash from a loud minority when they do move into more progressive spaces.
The LGBT+ community itself can react badly if you haven’t worked to create an authentic representation, or if you censor their inclusion in the cut-down versions you distribute more broadly.
That said, there is also considerable evidence that progressive adverts perform better across all audiences and deliver for your business, with such content driving better ad recall and purchase intent.
Avoid forced stereotypes, but there’s no point if you can blink and miss your portrayals – clearly some creative executions make it easier to show representation than others.
Outvertising works to unpack some of this evidence, and educate marketers on how to be prepared for any response, while maximizing the wider creative opportunity (check the Outvertising guide). Amplify your LGBT+ representative creativity right across your media approach to really maximise the opportunity for your business.
Jerry Daykin is a senior media director at GSK Consumer Healthcare. He is also commercial director at Outvertising and one of the WFA’s diversity ambassadors.