LGBTQ+ Representation in UK Advertising

Are we nearly there yet?

By Geraint Lloyd-Taylor

On a whole, 2016 saw some great progress for LGBT+ representation in advertising, as more brands got on board with promoting a message of equality, diversity and inclusion. However, there were also some clear signs that we still have some way to go as a society.

Each year the UK’s advertising regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), publishes a list of the top ten most complained about ads and, as a gay man, an advertising lawyer and spokesperson for PrideAM (the LGBT+ advertising network), the latest list was particularly demoralising.

ASA complaints are typically made on grounds of misleading the viewer. However, the top ten most complained about ads in 2016 did not look like a rogue’s gallery of brands that made wild exaggerations about their products or services – in fact none of the ten most complained about ads were accused of misleading anyone.

Instead, all of them stood accused of causing serious or widespread offence’.

Dave, the high-heeled dancer in tight denim shorts, and his troupe got under the skin of the ‘Disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells’ brigade in 2016, just as they had done the previous year.

But perhaps the most disheartening thing in my view was that 896 people complained about a ad which featured a kissing couple. The main ‘problem’ for many of the people who complained seems to have been that this everyday scene involved two women, rather than a straight couple.

There is still hope, however.

Yes, ‘Disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells’ is still going to take up his or her quill to complain about ads which they consider to be ‘offensive’ for depicting sexy dancing or same-sex couples, but the vast majority of us have moved on. And so has the ASA – they dismissed the complaints against all of the top ten most complained about ads.

I, for one, am pleased that advertisers in the UK can continue to put out creative work without fear of being curtailed by an overly sensitive regulator; and I urge advertisers to continue to portray and normalise LGBT+ individuals, relationships and families in advertising when the opportunity arises.

Written by Geraint Lloyd-Taylor, member and spokesperson for PrideAM