Adland: How to Avoid Rainbow Washing
Clients and their agencies often baulk at using gay and lesbian people in campaigns not because they think it’s too risky, rather they have a misguided belief that they make up too small a part of their customer base.
Originally published on BandT.com.au.
That’s the view of Pollen’s strategy lead Andy Miller (pictured below) who was recently commissioned by a health sector client to look at LGBTIQA people in ads on the back of the groundswell of public opinion in Australia surrounding same-sex marriage.
Miller’s comments come on the back of articles this week on B&T that argued that gay and lesbian imagery was virtually non-existent in the Australian media landscape and if it did it was often done in a campy, cliched and caricatured way.
“In my experience presenting to one of the major private health insurers, the primary source of resistance was the perception LGBTIQA Australians don’t make up a high enough audience share to justify a campaign specifically targeting these groups,” Miller said of his research.
“Of course, this point of view is as narrow-minded as the perceived ‘risk’ of alienating audiences. There is a kernel of truth in the health fund’s response though; it’s not just about making ads specifically for gay people.”
Miller said the solution to this was to make ads “less straight” but he added that didn’t mean they had to have “sterotypical displays of gayness” either.
“The problem of more inclusive everyday language is a relatively easy first step,” he said. “Most ads target more than one customer segment; so if gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer Australians make-up an important part of your audience – and they do – why not include some of these audience segments in your otherwise heterosexual stories and campaigns?”
Miller agreed most agencies are ill-equipped with delivering a positive LGBTIQA message and, he argued, just because you’ve got a gay mate or a lesbian in the office is no qualification for success.
“How many ad execs have actually scratched beneath the hot-right-now buzz surrounding marriage equality to begin understanding the real challenges for this diverse group?” he argued.
Miller, too, has devised a five-step plan for more meaningful and less risky gay-friendly campaigns. They include:
1. Understand the full rainbow spectrum (LGBTIQA)
2. Avoid faux research (there is plenty of academic research)
3. Articulate a purpose beyond marketing your product or service
4. Survey the community about your idea (incl. interest groups like ACON)
5. Get your house in order (internal education, review of organisational policies etc.)