Research: LGBTQ People 'Nearly Invisible' In Ads

McDonald’s Super Bowl spot was one of the few to be perceptibly LGBTQ-inclusive.

LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD has released its first Advertising Visibility Index, and it’s not good news for those hoping for more and better depictions of the gay community. The study, done in partnership with Kantar, looked at 436 national TV ads from the Top 10 advertisers and found just 3% had any LGBTQ representation.

And while those marketers and creative teams likely spent some time patting one another on the back for their effort, it didn’t have much impact. Fewer than 40% of those who viewed “inclusive” Super Bowl ads, for example, actually noticed the inclusivity.

And despite the brouhaha that’s still dogging Bud Light, the research confirms that the risk is minimal, indicating that brands are overly cautious. About 80% of U.S. consumers GLAAD studied say they want to see multidimensional LGBTQ representation.



Only 17% of people in GLAAD’s research say that seeing LGBTQ people in brand advertising brings about negative feelings, and just 16% say they’d be less likely to purchase that brand.

Conversely, consumers are actually 88% more likely to think well of a brand with a pro-LGBTQ stance, and 63% say they are more likely to purchase it.

And while marketers may be pleased with efforts to include passing shots of LGBTQ people and couples, that subtlety doesn’t have much impact, especially among key audiences.

About 46% of Gen Z respondents believe that what marketers consider inclusive ads are “too ambiguous to be noticed by most people.” These younger viewers are 1.5 times more likely to say advertisers are not appropriately representing LGBTQ people.

Celebrities are part of the problem. Of all the inclusive Super Bowl ads tracked, 70% used LGBTQ celebrities. Only 40% noticed those celebrities and regarded it as inclusion.

McDonald’s Super Bowl ad, which focused on the devotion required to know your significant other’s favorite order, scored quite highly. About 74% of viewers noticed the inclusion of a gay couple. Conversely, an ad for GM X Netflix features a split-second glimpse of “Queer Eye’s” Jonathan Ness tucked in the back seat. It got just 7%.

“Our community is nearly invisible in mainstream advertising, with room to grow both in scale and in quality. The ad industry is decades behind television and film when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion, but consumers are ready and willing to see the industry grow the quality, quantity, and diversity of ads,” writes Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD’s president and chief executive officer, in the report. “Brands that keep us invisible to appease anti-LGBTQ activists are not only missing a large and loyal consumer base today, but are missing a future generation of consumers and employees who demand that brands include LGBTQ people and other diverse communities in authentic and organic ways.”

Nielsen also just released a study on LGBTQ representation. Its global analysis reveals under-representation in all video content. Among cis-gendered respondents, 53% describe traditional TV as “very non-inclusive,” as do 64% of non-cis-gendered people. Movies viewed on streaming services are also problematic, regarded as very non-inclusive by 36% of both groups. TV shows on streaming platforms fared better, described as “very non-inclusive” by just 37% of cis-gendered people and 35% of those in the non-cis-gendered group.

“No matter if it is in government, television, or social media campaigns, diverse communities want more representation, not less,” writes Alan Miles, NCSolutions’ chief executive officer and executive sponsor of Nielsen PRIDE BRG, in its report. “Brands have a unique opportunity to speak directly to and in support of historically excluded populations.”

1 comment about "Research: LGBTQ People 'Nearly Invisible' In Ads".
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  1. Craig Lesly from Lesly Consulting, June 22, 2023 at 1:54 p.m.

    Maybe they should have arrows pointing at them with a caption saying "this one is queer."

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