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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