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Pride, not profit? A history of LGBTQIA+ marketing

Pride, not profit? A history of LGBTQIA+ marketing

A history of LGBTQIA+ marketing

If you’re wondering why rainbows are popping up everywhere, it’s because June is internationally known as Pride Month. So, what better time to dive into the history of Pride, LGBTQIA+ marketing, and share some of our own insights? 

A history full of Pride

If you google the word ‘pride’ today, you’ll probably get a lot of cheerful images. Think of rainbow flags, parades, music, performances, and (biodegradable) glitter. The origin of Pride was a bit, uhm, less festive. On June 28th, 1969, the New York police raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan. The local LGBT+ community reacted with a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations, better known as the Stonewall Riots. And while these demonstrations were not the first events in gay history, they were the first ones to be commemorated on a yearly basis. At first only in American cities, but soon all over the world. They eventually led to more rights for LGBTQIA+-people… And they opened the eyes of marketeers to the audience of gays and lesbians. 

The evolution of LGBQT-representation in advertising 

Okay, maybe we need to be more precise: obviously marketeers knew gay people existed before the Stonewall Riots, but they weren’t often featured in advertising. In order not to shock the general audience, gay people were virtually invisible. Sometimes there were implicit hints in commercials, but that’s about it. For example, marketeers used overtly gay symbols, such as the rainbow, so that gay audiences could decode an otherwise seemingly ‘straight’ advertisement, or they incorporated ‘homo-erotic’ aspects to (also) appeal to gay men.

From the 1990s on, gay representation became slightly more mainstream. On the one hand, you could see commercials with stereotypical white, middle class, handsome gay men, aimed at the so-called male ‘Double Income No Kids’-couples. On the other hand, you could see equally white and stereotypical hyperfeminine and hypersexualized lesbian and bisexual women, aimed at a straight male audience.

The importance of being intersectional & inclusive

The problem? Well, for one, there are not that many LGBT+-people who actually can identify with these stereotypical depictions. The goods news? Times are slowly changing. In general, with the growing acceptance of gay marriage, more and more gay couples are popping up in advertisements. Despite those examples, there’s still room for more and better representation. Some examples that were well received by (a big part of) the LGBT-community are the 2020 Douwe Egberts “Something To Share” commercial for depicting the positive reaction a father has when finding out his teenage daughter has a girlfriend, the 2019 Pantene “Coming Home Should Be Beautiful” commercial, featuring a choir of diverse transgender people, and the 2015 Magnum “Be True To Your Pleasure” commercial.

The secret? Intersectionality. People don’t just fit one box. Having an intersectional approach is the most important tool to make sure you don’t reproduce stereotypes, and still find some way to connect with the diversity within your audience. Or, step one, don’t just focus on sexuality, but also on the age, gender, ethnicity, abilities, body types, religious beliefs, social background, and so on, of your audience. And, step two, link those to universally recognizable moments: coming out, going home for the holidays, not fitting in into society’s expectations.

Pride before, during and after June

Having a successful campaign for Pride month is great, but if you want to do better you should also be a vocal ally, donate to LGBTQIA+-organisations, and make sure your own workplace is inclusive towards LGBT+-people. And, since you’re being intersectional, don’t forget about other minorities. For example, Ben and Jerry’s has been supportive of LGBT+-rights since 1996, but they’ve received backlash for their support of the apartheid in the West Bank. When you want to be inclusive, you have to do it in every single aspect. Like we revealed in our article on anti-racism, this takes time, effort, and the willingness to own up to your mistakes. But we promise: taking these steps makes it easier to really involve different communities in all of your projects. The result? Truly inclusive campaigns. And that’s something to be proud of for the entire year!

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? We’re here to help you get started on inclusive communications.


Written by

Carlien Coppieters

Carlien is seriously involved with finding the right words. A fairly essential quality, as a copywriter. But when it comes to describing herself, chances are she’ll get stuck at ‘professional dad joke-maker’. Thank goodness she gets to write about other things at Allyens!
25 June 2020

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