Pride Month has officially kicked off, and it is a great time to take stock of the past year in terms of inclusivity and diversity in advertising.

We sat down with Karina Klymenko, Head of Creative and Compliance at MGID, to ask her a few questions regarding the current adoption of LGBTQ+ topics in ad creatives and advertising. In addition, she discussed how advertisers can take a more authentic and inclusive approach to engaging with intersectional experiences and fostering meaningful connections with diverse audiences.

Hi Karina! Let's start with the basics: can you share any insights or observations about the current market trends and consumer response to advertising campaigns featuring LGBTQ+ representation?

According to recent research conducted by GLAAD, the general sentiment among consumers regarding trans representation in TV and advertising remains consistent. In a survey conducted in February, GLAAD found that 75 percent of non-LGBTQ individuals expressed comfort in seeing trans individuals represented in marketing campaigns. This percentage remained unchanged from the previous year, indicating a stable and positive outlook towards trans inclusivity in advertising.

Why must brands champion proper LGBTQ+ representation in ads?

Brands have a responsibility to contribute positively to society. By championing proper LGBTQ+ representation, they can support social progress, challenge stereotypes and contribute to creating a more inclusive and accepting culture. Proper LGBTQ+ representation in ads also has internal benefits. It signals to employees that the company values diversity and inclusion, creating a more supportive work environment. This can enhance employee morale, attract top talent and drive overall company success.

Do you find that there is a spike in LGBTQ+ adoption in June, but then, after Pride month, it declines rapidly?

I do find this to be true. June brings a lot of Pride-themed campaigns, clothing and creatives, but brands need to go deeper than just rainbow packaging. If a brand doesn't have a plan for year-round LGBTQ+ inclusion, they ought to prioritize that over a one-time Pride campaign.

Why do so many campaigns take a superficial approach to LGBTQ+ issues and representation?

Brands can view the LGBTQ+ community as a lucrative target market during Pride Month and other sales-driven events. Their surface-level approach may be the result of a fear of potential backlash from conservative or less accepting audiences. In this case, a one-time action purely for show allows them, from their point of view, to kill two birds with one stone — to show their progressiveness while avoiding delving into more substantive discussions on LGBTQ+ issues and making a long-term commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

How can brands and retailers keep up the momentum of Pride Month and spotlight the LGBTQ+ community year-round?

Well, I know that Airbnb has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and inclusivity. They have implemented inclusive policies to protect LGBTQ+ travelers and have actively supported Pride events worldwide. Airbnb has also released campaigns that emphasize acceptance and belonging. In addition, Target has been recognized for its inclusive marketing campaigns, featuring LGBTQ+ individuals and families in their advertisements. They have actively supported Pride events, sponsored LGBTQ+ organizations and prioritized inclusive policies within their company.

What strategies or specific guidelines does MGID employ to ensure that LGBTQ+ adoption is accurately and sensitively portrayed in its advertisements?

First of all, we avoid any offensive or harmful assumptions, stereotypes or language that may be insensitive or exclusionary, as well as any imagery that could be misinterpreted. If there is even the slightest possibility that an advertisement could be perceived as discriminatory or insulting, we reject it. We also strive for greater diversity in our advertising approaches, depicting all people no matter their gender and sexual identities and expressions.

In addition, we adhere to the principles of equality. For example, when it comes to the image of a family, we include equally diverse and authentic representations of all families — LGBTQ+ or not — including same-sex couples or transgender parents, in our advertising campaigns. Iit is essential to present LGBTQ+ individuals in a diverse, authentic and multifaceted manner, reflecting the reality of their lives. Through this comprehensive approach to representation of all possible gender and sexual diversity on the planet, we re-emphasize our commitment to inclusion and equality of all people.

In terms of compliance and legal considerations, what are the guidelines and regulations MGID adheres to when portraying LGBTQ+ adoption in advertising?

There are no specific guidelines because it is impossible to single out any separate scenario or instance in which separate rules would apply. When portraying LGBTQ+ people in advertising, we adhere to the same requirements as when depicting any other advertisement. This reaffirms that they are not excluded or marginalized in advertising campaigns and emphasizes the promotion of fairness, respect and equality in accordance with the ethical principles of advertising.

All advertisers undergo certification and content verification. We check that advertising content follows the rules and regulations set by government agencies and exclude content that can mislead or deceive consumers and lead to potential harm. The multi-layered verification process serves the purpose of making sure that the advertised product or service is safe for the customer and for the company itself. This applies to absolutely all ads, regardless of whether they include the representation of LGBTQ+ people or not.

Can you provide examples of advertising campaigns that successfully tell LGBTQ+ stories, and what were the key elements that made them successful?

Campaigns will only be successful if they prioritize authenticity, inclusivity and positive representation. They resonate with audiences by showcasing diverse stories, fostering empathy and understanding and promoting acceptance and equality. By avoiding stereotypes, embracing diversity and delivering powerful messages, these campaigns are able to effectively tell LGBTQ+ stories in the right way.

For example, "Share the Love" campaign by Hallmark. Hallmark aired a series of commercials featuring diverse families, including same-sex couples and their children, celebrating holidays and special occasions. Their distinguishing feature was the authentic portrayal of diverse families and the focus on love and togetherness, resonating with a wide audience.

Or "Love Has No Labels" campaign by Ad Council. It aimed to promote acceptance and inclusion by showcasing diverse relationships, including same-sex couples, through an X-ray-like screen. The campaign told real stories of real people, showed diverse representations, which is why its message turned out to be so powerful and full of love and acceptance.

What are some things brands and companies can do internally to establish their support for the LGBTQ+ community?

It is difficult to talk specifically about a strategy without it being perceived as artificial. Indeed, in a conversation about LGBTQ+, we are striving to remove artificiality and pretense. Well, to move beyond the check-the-box approach and genuinely engage with intersectional experiences, we must empathize first. Without empathy, any activity will look insincere.

It's not enough to say that marketers should appreciate the diversity of LGBTQ+ backgrounds and opinions. It is much more important to ensure that LGBTQ+ people are seen as a key part of the consumer base that can be included in every campaign, and not just for Pride campaigns. A great start is to engage in meaningful partnerships and collaborations with diverse communities and create campaigns that authentically represent their experiences. This involves actively seeking input, listening and valuing the insights of those with lived experiences.