BuzzFeed commissioned JWT to conduct an analysis of how Americans feel about ads that are “LGBT-inclusive.” Although they’re talking about advertising, there’s a lot that PRs can also learn from the study, which reveals some very positive attitudes about the increased diversity we’re seeing. That is awesome, BTW.
Lately, we’ve seen a number of ads that feature LGBT families and couples; from Banana Republic to Honey Maid and Coca-Cola, there’s been a significant increase in LGBT presence in marketing of late. And, according to the findings, that paints an accurate picture of life today. Eight out of 10 consumers surveyed (there were 500 total) said “showing gay or lesbian people in ads simply reflects the reality of our society today.” Another 60 percent said brands that show same-sex couples are “being appropriately inclusive” with their marketing.
“These findings suggest that when diversity and acceptance are authentic and on-strategy for the brand, LGBT-inclusive ads will be met with a high degree of acceptance and benefit the advertiser,” said Mark Truss, director of brand intelligence at JWT.
Some of the ads that have run featuring LGBT couples and families — and even those, like the Cheerios commercial, which feature more racial diversity — have received harsh criticism. And, rightfully so, people have defended the ads, the companies that stood by the campaigns, and the real people in them.
But it’s also worth noting here that brands are following society’s lead rather than the other way around.
“Brands are always looking for ways to better connect with their customers, and one way they do this is to look at what’s happening in the culture that surrounds their target audience,” Truss continued.
The statement acknowledges an inherent fear on the part of brands and companies that being out of step with their target markets will result in losses — to their reputation and to sales. It’s important to note that women in their 20s and 30s, the people doing most of the shopping, are the most supportive.
The research also found that 72 percent of respondents think the brands that include LGBT couples are “brave” and “modern.” This, Truss says “translates to leadership.”
However, the study also found that when ads are too overt about the depictions of same-sex couples — for instance, the Target ad we included above — there’s a sense that it’s more “controversial.” Only 48 percent of respondents said they liked this ad. Forty percent of respondents said they don’t think same-sex couples should be featured in ads. Many of those opposed are older men. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they’re not exposed to LGBT-inclusive ads.
Increased diversity is definitely a long time coming and we want to see more of it. Kudos to all those marketing folks and execs who make the decision to showcase all kinds of love and appeal to the broad consumer base that they want to capture. Any way that will push us forward is to be applauded.
But it’s also important that we keep in mind where progress is coming from. BuzzFeed notes that brands are doing all sorts of market research before they launch new initiatives. So by the time it reaches our screens, magazines and newspapers, it’s gone through a thorough filtering process. It bubbles up from consumers — those who vote with their purchasing dollars, their Facebook likes and their YouTube comments — and spreads to brands that, even when they agree with the consensus, may at first feel the risk is too great.