Active representation of diverse audiences can be a crucial step to an equitable society when done properly. This is evident with the improvement in the visibility of LGBTQIA+ people represented in media in recent years, which is an amazing step in the right direction. In saying this, misrepresentation can be just as harmful as a lack of representation.

A recent study by Nielsen, conducted in collaboration with Dynata, found that LGBTQIA+ audiences felt that advertisers could improve inclusion by taking on the following recommendations:

  • 50% of respondents recommend avoiding stereotypes
  • 44% of respondents recommend more authentic and realistic depictions of LGBTQIA+ people
  • 37% of respondents recommend involving the community when planning and creating ads.

From this, we can see a clear need to adjust the way that advertisers represent and engage with the LGBTQIA+ community to truly make the community feel included. When there is an apparent lack of authenticity, it can lead to a perception of tokenism. This results in people feeling excluded, rather than included.

What do we do now?

The UN Women Unstereotype Alliance survey found that 64% of advertisers had a fear of ‘getting it wrong.’ To avoid this, it is imperative that advertisers involve marginalised communities that they want to depict at all stages of the advertising process to ensure that the endeavour is authentic.

This means not only having LGBTQIA+ people in ads, but also in the room at the planning stage. This also extends to having LGBTQIA+ representation in the workforce, on consumer panels and gauging the community’s feedback when testing creative/copy.

Beware the monolith

During LGBTQIA+ History Month in February, the7stars hosted a conversation on representation in media with members of our own community and the wider industry to discuss related topics. We drew similar conclusions to those of the survey, but a key point resonated with the group: the LGBTQIA+ community is not a monolith. One individual cannot represent the entire community.

So, even when seeking community feedback, advertisers should consider whether their counsel wants to be there and if they are an authentic and diverse representation of the lived experience in the story the advertiser is looking to tell.