Advertising to Queer Folk: Pride Month and Beyond

A crash course in effective LGBTQ+ marketing

Hello, class. Welcome to Advertising to Queer Folk 101.

If you're here, you've likely wondered how to "do better" when it comes to advertising to the LGBTQ+ community. Maybe you're curious to know which brands are doing it well—or mystified as to how they're managing to connect with this diverse community. Perhaps you're even flabbergasted as to why you should care?

Either way, I have great news. Today, we'll be learning about some successful campaigns and sharing best practices so you can take these learnings and act on them.

For instance, every year we study advertising during Pride Month, and every year it's more of the same—June approaches us and it's a lot of "Hello, one-off activations" and rainbow-filled logos. While these brands' intentions may be good, not all will stick the landing. Some will skip out on the follow-through, which may arguably be the most important part. Others, who didn't do their homework, will have failed to include members of this community in the strategy, creative and execution.

But let's focus on the ones who nailed it and the lessons to be learned from them. 

Here are several campaigns that thoughtfully spoke to who this audience is, how to connect with them, and why authentic advertising to the LGBTQ+ audience is important for business.

Notebooks out! Let's learn, together.

Lesson 1: Authentic Voices

Always, always, always highlight this community by featuring the talent and artists who thrive within it—both in front of and behind the camera, as well as internally (at agency) and externally (in partnership). A campaign which isn't anchored in real, tangible, genuine activity on the part of the brand will ring hollow at best.

Case Study: Absolut, "Absolut Haring" (1995)

One of the most important creative partnerships to come out of the '90s, Absolut Vodka commissioned artist Keith Haring to create art for its iconic packaging. This was not only momentous for a brand to spotlight a gay artist during these times, but coming off the heels of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and standing in solidarity with a member of the LGBTQ+ community who was an AIDS activist and living with HIV himself was huge. Absolut has gone on—across global markets—to continually support the community in various ad campaigns since.

Case Study: Spotify, "Unlike Any Other" (2020)

Using global platforms for exposure is crucial in making an authentic effort to lift communities and underrepresented people. Spotify does just that on a regular basis, but during Pride season in the first year of the pandemic, they made sure to put an even larger push behind spotlighting and celebrating both talent and fans within the community. By showcasing the uniqueness of creators through the power of audio, they connected people in a time when togetherness and shared experiences were of the utmost importance.

Case Study: Google (Search and Maps), "Taking Pride in Our Businesses" (2022)

One of the biggest pieces of criticism facing brands with regards to showing support for the LGBTQ+ community is the lack of support year round. Google stepped up and made actual feature changes within their products in order to do just that. By allowing people to use their Search and Maps products, users can filter results to show businesses that are owned and operated by members of the LGBTQ+ community. This allows users to become patrons of the businesses, and it also makes it easier for people within the community to know where they are welcomed, supported and cared for to find those homes away from home.

Lesson 2: Natural Storytelling

Narratives that not only focus on everyday life and behavior, but also simultaneously celebrate both our similarities and differences make a real impact.

Case Study: Ikea, "Dining Room Table" (1984)

A historical moment in advertising as Ikea created the first national television spot to feature an openly gay couple. But what was even more revolutionary was the fact that the ad showed the couple doing something outrageous... being normal. They're a couple whose taste in furniture differed and finding the perfect dining room table was their goal that day. That's it. That's the ad. Shocking, right?

Case Study: Coca-Cola, "Pool Boy" (2017)

Coca-Cola did two surprising things in this ad: first, they purposefully broke their product—scandalous, but more importantly they featured a human-centric story about how family and "love" (read: "a summertime crush") melded together into an ordinary tale. By not putting any overt emphasis on the fact that both the son and daughter were fighting to win the attention of the pool boy, it made the story take hold. The humor and antics were at the forefront and the acceptance that accompanied it was made more powerful because of it.

Case Study: Magnum, "The Ceremony" (2017)

It wasn't long ago that same-sex marriage in America was illegal in most states. Which makes this beautifully-crafted spot from Magnum all the more impactful. Once again, not making any extra fanfare over a life event, but simply showing that this moment is as cherished, respected and loved by those within the LGBTQ+ community as those who had been granted this right before. Giving the time and attention to celebrate these stories matters to those whose rights are literally hanging in the balance today.

Lesson 3: Focus on long-term impacts, not short-term pandering.

Raise awareness, take a stance alongside the community and create conversations that will have ongoing meaning and progress. Don’t engage in short-sighted activities like rainbow-washing; consider the long-game.

Case Study: Honey Maid, "This is Wholesome" (2014)

Taking a stance on what "family" means will absolutely have its detractors. But Honey Maid didn't just make a statement and then fold to pressure and negativity after creating a piece that included two gay fathers. No, they doubled down instead and followed up on it. By taking the hate they received and showcasing it in an act of "Love" they were able to outshine the naysayers and put out that continual support. They didn't mince their words or actions about where they stood on the matter.

Case Study: Gay Men's Health Crisis, "Blood Equality" (2017)

This is just one of countless pieces of marketing that focus on the inequity that has plagued the community with unwarranted, unjust stigmatization and discrimination. But it does so in a sobering way by posing the question, "what if you were turned away from donating blood simply because of whom you loved?" This—and other pieces like it—have helped to continually make a call-to-action against this practice. And fortunately with these ongoing efforts and campaigns it finally has. That is the power of creativity in this industry.

Case Study: Oreo, "The Note" (2022)

While this piece is an amazing one to view, it is just one of many times that Oreo as a brand stepped up to the plate in order to combat anti-sentiment toward the LGBTQ+ community. Oreo continually advertises in favor of the community in the face of opposition, stands by as an ally with meaningful partnerships, and hasn't wavered in their intent. This is not a one-and-done mentality for the brand, but a moral ethos that they have lived by for years and have overcome the hate and silliness every time.

Lessons Learned

So class, in conclusion, it doesn't take rocket science to craft effective, caring and supportive advertising, but rather, a concerted effort in bringing true, authentic voices to the forefront (both in front of the camera and behind it). By creating engaging narratives that tell true-to-life stories in order, you can do your part to not only normalize but bring mainstream attention to this community's lives—and that, class, is how you breed inclusion and tolerance. 

Stand by the community at large and they will stand by you. Be their ally first, earn their trust, and build rapport with them. This isn't a one-and-done, checked-the-box, feel-good moment that you can hang your hat on.

These are their lives. Take care of them when they're in your hands.

Class dismissed.

Advertise With Us

Featured Clio Award Winner



The best in creativity delivered to your inbox every morning.