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Brands Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Put LGBT Couples In Their Ads

LGBT-centric ads aren’t without controversy. But while they may be rare, that’s almost certainly going to start changing.

Brands Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Put LGBT Couples In Their Ads

I still remember the first time I saw an ad featuring a gay couple–it was ad for an ice cream shop in Amsterdam, about 14 years ago. An ad like that would never have shown up in the U.S. during that time period, but even now, in the midst of a tidal wave of gay marriage legalization, ads featuring LGBT couples are scarce.

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According to a new survey conducted by marketing communications firm JWT, most Americans are ready for LGBT-inclusive ads–and many would even embrace them.

In its LGBT Inclusive Advertising Study, JWT surveyed 500 U.S. adults ages 18 and up. Some 80% of respondents said they think ads featuring LGBT couples simply reflect today’s reality, and yet, 42% of respondents said that they rarely see ads featuring members of the LGBT community. Just 9% of people said that they see these ads often.

Respondents were generally open to the idea of having LGBT-inclusive ads show up on their screens, as you can see from this chart:


Liberals, millennials, urbanites, the non-religious, and women were more open than most, but still, 23% of conservatives, 49% of rural residents, 48% of baby boomers, 49% of religious folk, and 52% of men responded that they thought it was “cool when I see same-sex couples in ads.” Those are some pretty astounding numbers considering that just 30 years ago, nearly 60% of Americans thought LGBT relationships were “always wrong.”


However, LGBT-centric ads aren’t without controversy. Some 45% of respondents said that they didn’t understand why brands felt the need to include same-sex couples in ads, and 42% of LGBT respondents believed that brands using LGBT couples in their ads were just trying to get publicity (54% of non-LGBT respondents thought the same thing). Even with all these conflicted feelings, 72% of respondents believed that brands who put LGBT couples in their ads are brave.

Here’s one takeaway from the study: If brands want ads featuring LGBT couples to be less controversial, they should feature fewer displays of affection, and steer clear of the marriage issue. The more they dance around any hints of real relationships, the less controversy they’ll see, in other words.

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This ad for Target (on the right) was pretty controversial among respondents.

But this Kindle ad was not:

Whether or not they’re trying to get publicity, it is true that brands utilizing LGBT relationships in their ads probably will get at least a little bit of attention. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. And it will continue to be the case, of course, until LGBT relationships are fully normalized throughout mainstream media. Considering how quickly the LGBT rights movement has advanced in the past five years alone, that probably won’t take long.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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