Actions speak louder than words: how brands can authentically show support for the LGBTQ+ community in Pride Month – and beyond

From all-too-obvious rainbow-washing to being overly concerned about avoiding backlash, brands make many missteps during Pride Month – here’s how to ensure meaningful support all year round.

From marches to art exhibitions there has been a myriad of meaningful activities for everyone to engage in throughout this year's Pride Month. Despite the boundless opportunity, some brands have created bland products – including watch straps that don’t deliver on charitable efforts – whilst others have been too afraid to engage with the community publicly for fears of ‘woke’ backlash.

Many brands have taken strides to express solidarity with the community, both in and outside of Pride Month, yet many efforts fall short of being truly inclusive and supportive.

The key is developing a deeper understanding of the LGBTQ+ community and where your businesses can add meaningful support all year round, rather than engaging in performative seasonal allyship.

A spotlight on rainbow-washing

Rainbow emblazoned products, LGBTQ+ influencer campaigns, a change in logo and some social media posts. These steps, repeated by businesses across the globe, mean nothing if they are not backed up by internal policies, and external initiatives that support and empower LGBTQ+ employees.

Using Pride symbolism for monetary gain in this manner without providing genuine support for the community is called rainbow-washing. At best, rainbow-washing is the result of negligence leading to a lack of genuine support for the community. At worst, it is a direct attempt from executives to profiteer off Pride Month.

There must be clear and demonstrable corporate responsibility regarding LGBTQ+ community within the business if you wish to communicate your support to the world.

Pride is more than a marketing opportunity; it’s a symbol of the LGBTQ+ community's resilience, passion and determination. When brands launch Pride-related products and initiatives without protecting or supporting the LGBTQ+ community within its own walls – it sends a clear message: we’re only here for the money.

Inclusion lists: does what it says on the tin

Rainbow-washing is primarily concerned with practising what you preach internally, but it’s also important to understand how adtech supports the LGBTQ+ community through its solutions.

Inclusion lists, which consist of channels, publishers, content owners, influencers and creators, can be created with specific goals. This goal could – and should – include support for the LGBTQ+ community by ensuring the inclusion list possesses a number of LGBTQ+ creators and channels whilst simultaneously not blocking channels or videos that discuss important LGBTQ+ related topics.

With a growing responsibility for brands to support social causes such as Pride Month, there comes a moral responsibility to ensure they are supporting content creators from this community on the largest advertising platforms.

And whilst there is a strong moral responsibility, it’s also important to note that through custom curated inclusion lists, brands can reach increasingly diverse audiences who will connect with your key messages. One Channel Factory client saw a 22% increase in view through rate using the combination of inclusion lists and contextual targeting. Evidently, inclusion lists not only diversify your audiences but can increase engagement with your advertising.

Inclusion lists are not just the right thing to use, but they also expose any argument for not supporting the LGBTQ+ community because of ‘resources’ or ‘costs’.

Embracing conscious advertising

Embracing a conscious advertising approach is another manner in which brands can support the LGBTQ+ community both inside and outside of Pride Month.

Being conscious is being compelled to take a stand, to shine a light, and to lead the journey to a more equitable era of inclusion. A conscious advertising approach would include doing away with overly cautious block lists and obsessions over brand safety that have led to the exclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals, and those from other diverse communities, from receiving quality advertising alongside their content.

Adopting brand suitability targeting methods allow brands and advertisers to be seen alongside content from diverse communities, and alongside content that tackles important societal issues.

Conscious advertising also encapsulates the creation of initiatives and influencer programs that actively support and include diverse communities, including the LGBTQ+ community. When developing these initiatives, the importance of including representatives from the LGBTQ+ community within the brainstorming and decision making process cannot be understated.

Without including the very community you wish to support in these processes, you cannot expect the initiative to truly make an impact. A key element of conscious advertising is ensuring diverse communities are involved at all levels and within all elements of the advertising world — from the creative to the tech.

Pride Month is an opportunity for brands to amplify LGBTQ+ voices, support diversity and inclusion, and effect societal change. With the LGBTQ+ community and their allies being actively interested in supporting brands that demonstrate genuine support for their community, there are great reputational risks surrounding inaction and “rainbow-washing”.

Harnessing the immense financial clout within our industry, we hold the keys to a game-changing force. Advertising, backed by genuine, unwavering commitment, has the power to ignite transformative waves. It's time to let our actions take centre stage alongside our claims, not just during Pride Month, but every single day.

Rob Blake


Channel Factory