AdRespect Best Practices

Part I.


Advertising seeks to sell, not offend. It may seem difficult today not to upset someone, but few minority groups are ridiculed as often and openly as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people. We acknowledge that humor is an indispensible tool for creative professionals, yet while “policital incorrectness” and irreverence may often be assets in stand-up comedy, the goals of advertising are different -- a laugh must also translate into sales from a wide variety of people.

The goal of this document is to guide companies to create general advertising that doesn’t exploit homophobia, transphobia or GLBT stereotypes for humor, and suggest approaches to improve brand image and sales.

Over the years, hundreds of commercials have referred to GLBT people to spark attention and interest. Yet a majority have done so for sensationalistic reasons, based upon old conventional wisdom that stereotypes and homophobia translates to sales. Yet while diversity and multicultural awareness are an increasing priority for corporations, and “sexual orientation” and “gender expression” concerns are addressed internally, these issues are often overlooked in general marketing communications. Advertising has not adapted to keep up with companies’ own internal corporate policies, as well as the rapidly changing social attitudes of Consumers, Businesses, Investors, Employees, Vendors and Governments...

  • The general population and media are increasingly aware of diversity and are often uncomfortable with messages lacking sensitivity. At least 82% of Americans know someone gay, 81% of consumers don’t care if products they regularly use are promoted to gays, 75% of youth support same-sex marriages, 55% of Americans would vote for a gay or lesbian president, 54% of Americans support same-sex civil unions, and 42% of heterosexuals would be less likely to buy a product advertised on an anti-gay program. Viacom/MTV launched 24-hour gay channel LOGO available in 27 million U.S. homes, primetime TV featured up to 30 gay characters, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed gay protections, and same-sex couples have legal recognition in eight states, Canada, and 21 other countries. One-third of the U.S. population is protected against transgender discrimination.
  • Big business increasingly protects its gay employees from discrimination (94% of Fortune 500), offers equal benefits (51% of Fortune 500), and explores gay marketing (36% of Fortune 100) with $235 million-plus invested annually in U.S. gay media, events and organizations. Over 166 companies have added “gender identity and expression” to their non-discrimination policies. And 84% of U.S. marketers believe multicultural marketing is “critical to my business.”
  • Friends, family, and colleagues of GLBT people are very vocal, active, and sensitive allies to diversity issues, with national groups like PFLAGGLSEN, and gay-straight alliances in schools. Up to 47% of U.S. women (103.6 million adults) ad 35% of men (77.1 million adults) say they have a "close friend or family member who is gay." (180.7 million Americans in 2004)
  • GLBT people consistently self-identify in broad online surveys as 7% of the population. They belong to nearly every family and company, and the approximately 15.3 million gay and lesbian adult Americans hold $660 billion in buying power in 2007, growing annually to an expected $835 billion by 2011 on a population of 16.3 million. They vary in race, age, religion, national origin, gender expression, ability, politics, profession, and class. About 1.2 million reported to the 2000 U.S. Census they are partnered in rural areas, suburbs and cities, appearing in 99% of counties nationwide, and 1 in 5 have children.
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