Putting the LGBT+ into advertising: 6 campaigns where brands did it right

As Pride Month draws to a close we have time to reflect on the part brands have played in the LGBT+ community.


Advertising has always been a vehicle for shaping opinions, influencing how we perceive the world. As Pride Month draws to a close we have time to reflect on the part brands have played in the LGBT+ community, how they have used their unique platform for the community beyond adding rainbows to their social profiles and using #Pride through advertising.

A recent Channel4 study of UK advertising found that just 3% of adverts were identified as having representation from the LGBT+ community. This figure is reduced further to just 1% where the LGBT+ character was the focus of the advert. This is a frustrating figure considering an estimated 6% of the UK population identify as LGBT+.

In the same study by Channel4, 60% surveyed felt the LGBT+ community, when it did appear in adverts, was represented in a negative way, often in supporting, tokenistic roles. People also said that same-sex relationships were given very brief exposure in adverts and rarely as part of a family unit. Those surveyed who identified as LGBT+ felt advertisers fell foul of resorting to common stereotypes portraying lesbians as ‘butch’, gay men as ‘camp’ or showing gay characters in a party scene.

Given the power brands have it should come as no surprise that there are far-reaching positive societal benefits to greater representation in advertising. A study by P&G (USA) found that those who have been more exposed to LGBT+ people through the media are more likely to accept them and be comfortable around them. It is also worth noting that LGBT+ not-for-profits report spikes in access to their services the more the community is featured in mainstream media.

However, it’s not just society that can benefit but the brands themselves can also gain, in the same P&G survey it was found that 68% of non-LGBT+ consumers feel better about buying products from companies that include LGBT+ people in their advertisements and also see them as more socially responsible.

So what brands have gone further than others? Thankfully there is an increasing number of brands who are genuinely excelling at LGBT+ inclusion, either by highlighting the community in a positive and meaningful way or giving back to the community.

Here are 6 renowned examples of brands who got it right.

Starbucks – What’s Your Name?

Starbucks UK ran a compelling campaign in 2019 titled #whatsyourname which celebrates the significance for some transgender and gender diverse people to have their new name acknowledged in public.

The advert was inspired by real-life experiences of people who were transitioning. In addition to the advert, a special Mermaid Cookie was sold in Starbucks around the UK to raise a minimum of £100K for Mermaids, a UK charity that offers supports to gender diverse children.


IKEA Canada, sponsors of Toronto Pride 2018, wanted to celebrate pride month and its “beautiful possibilities”. The solution? To challenge 10 Toronto Drag Queens to transform everyday Ikea product into sickening high fashion couture.

The adverts successfully highlighted Ikea products but more importantly celebrated the resourcefulness of Toronto’s very own local drag queens. This whole campaign from IKEA gets 10’s, 10s, 10s across the board for creativity and execution.

Renault CLIO – 30 Years In The Making

In 2019 Renault celebrated 30 years of their CLEO model with a heartfelt advert centred on two young friends brought together by a school exchange and followed their relationship that blossoms over the following 30 years.

Not only does the advert follow changes in the CLIO but also highlights societal changes over the past 3 decades. The advert is beautifully shot and has been praised internationally for its representative storyline, not relying on stereotypes, and showing a non-traditional family unit.

Fanta – That Coke Is A Fanta

The world is full of homophobic slurs, and in Brazil, apparently one of the most famous expressions is “Essa Coca é Fanta” or “That Coke is a Fanta”. For years, this expression was used to make fun of the LGBT+ community in the country.

In 2017, at Pride, Coca-Cola launched a limited-edition can, a red Coke can with orange Fanta inside, featuring the message: “This Coke is a Fanta. So what?” The special can showed Brazil that there is nothing wrong about being different. This is a brilliant example of a brand using their platform to change the conversation.

MAC – Viva Glam

Perhaps one of the earliest and most famous campaigns to champion LGBT+ inclusion is the MAC Viva Glam campaign. The first Viva Glam lipstick launched in 1994 with an iconic campaign fronted by drag queen RuPaul. The goal of the campaign was to raise funds for HIV/AIDS-related causes which, back in 1994, no brand wanted any association with.

Now, 25 years later, the campaign has been fronted by LGBT+ celebrities and allies the world over including Lady Gaga, Elton John, Boy George and Rihanna. To date, MAC has raised more than $500 Million for HIV/AIDS-related causes.

Dublin Bus – The Long Road To Pride

Dublin Bus is not a brand that initially comes to mind for LGBT+ representation but over the last few years, the brand has been prolific with their LGBT+ inclusive campaigns. In 2018 they ran a lovely campaign called Proud Dads, giving the dads of LGBT+ people a platform to show their support for their children’s sexuality.

In 2019 they ran a tear-jerking campaign titled ‘Long Road To Pride’ which championed the inclusion of the older generations of the LGBT+ community, highlighting that Pride is for everyone! Even in 2020, Dublin Bus will partner with BeLonG To on a new campaign highlighting support services available for LGBT+ youth.

Ryan Reid is a Media Account Manager at Carat Ireland.

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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