WPP study goes ‘Beyond the Rainbow’ and brings queer into the mainstream

As recent events in Qatar and the vilification of JK Rowling amply demonstrate, LGBTQ+ rights can, one way or another, be a very tricky place to go.

WPP has braved the territory and put together a new global study on LGBTQ+ marketing and its future, wisely working with an all-queer team of senior people from across the group.

Beyond the Rainbow’s findings aren’t necessarily controversial in themselves, although they do point to some of the issues that arise: the huge influence that the LGBTQ+ community now has on mainstream culture, advertising’s continued failure to understand it, and the difficulties that still accompany being fully “out.”

Some of the headlines include:

  • Among young people, queer media has become mainstream: 93% of LGBTQ+ 18–24 year olds and 85% of non-LGBTQ+ 18–24 year olds actively seek out queer media, proving its universal appeal
  • The quality and quantity of queer media needs improvement: Just 38% of those who seek out queer content are satisfied with the way LGBTQ+ people are represented, and 2 out of 3 LGBTQ+ people want to see more queer representation
  • More than half of LGBTQ+ people are still not completely out at work: Only 40% are completely open about their sexuality with colleagues, while 50% are open about their gender identity
  • There’s an income gap when it comes to being out at work: Those on the highest incomes were 37% more likely to be completely open at work than those on the lowest incomes
  • 52% of LGBTQ+ people like it when brands change their logos to the rainbow flag colours during Pride month. However, 3 out of 4 LGBTQ+ people and half of non- LGBTQ+ people think brands should do more to support LGBTQ+ people outside Pride month.

WPP’s aim with Beyond the Rainbow is to be of practical use to clients by helping them connect with LGBTQ+ audiences.

Michael Houston, president of WPP in the US, said: “In a world where the LGBTQ+ community continues to face discrimination and violent attacks, the power that our industry has to create change should not be underestimated. WPP has a responsibility to educate and empower our people, our clients, and our allies to positively and meaningfully influence the cultural representation of the LGBTQ+ community through marketing, advertising and communications.”

In many ways it’s a bold move by WPP. It can be considered a success if the group creates more campaigns that understand LGBTQ+ issues and opportunities without stoking controversy somewhere in the world. It’s got to be worth a try.

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall is a journalist and editorial consultant and is the former Europe Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.