Procter & Gamble and GLAAD see LGBTQ ads lifting sales and social acceptance
Procter & Gable Co. has released several high-profile ads in recent years portraying LGBTQ people for Pantene, Tide, Gillette and Vicks. But a dive into its ad archives for a new branded documentary from CNN’s Great Big Story brought a surprise discovery of several Ivory ads from the 1880s with seemingly homoerotic imagery.
The video, which launches today, dovetails with a survey from GLAAD showing non-LGBTQ people exposed to LGBTQ people in entertainment or ads are more likely to be comfortable with them in their personal lives, more supportive of equal rights, and more inclined to buy brands that back such ads.
The study and video also dovetail with an effort by the Association of National Advertising to develop standards for portraying LGBTQ people in advertising. P&G Chief Brand Officer and ANA Chairman Marc Pritchard describes the effort as identifying best practices that will make it easier for brands to include LGBTQ people.
P&G’s own efforts have drawn critics on the right, particularly One Million Moms. In the video, Pritchard recounts going to a meeting several years ago of a group he declines to identify. “They said, ‘What you’re doing by your contributions to Pride and other things is that you’re supporting the other side.’ And I said, ‘Hmmm. We don’t define families. Love defines families. We serve all people. We have employees who are gay. We have consumers who are gay. We’re going to continue to serve them.’ And then I walked out.”
And P&G isn’t letting up, shown by its latest effort from House of Radon, Stockholm, showing the role hair styling plays in the lives of transgender people.
GLAAD’s survey of more than 2,000 Americans late last year provides some business-case support – finding 68 percent said they were more likely to buy products from brands that show LGBTQ people in their ads.
Pritchard says in the “They Will See You” video: “We’re the world’s largest advertiser. Our images affect how people see the world. Our images reflect how people see themselves. If it didn’t move the needle from a business standpoint, would we support LGBTQ visibility? Yes. Because it’s about humanity.”
GLAAD’s survey found people who recalled seeing entertainment or ads in the past three months with LGBTQ people were more likely – by 5 to 9 percentage points – to be comfortable learning a family member is LGBTQ, seeing same-sex couples hold hands or starting conversations with people whose gender is unclear.
GLAAD last year found 10.2 percent of regular characters in scripted primetime broadcast TV programs for the 2019-2020 season were identified as LGBTQ, more than double the 4.5 percent of people in the U.S. who self-identified as LGBTQ in a 2017 Gallup survey. But Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, estimates that only 1 to 2 percent of people in ads are identified as LGBTQ – though it’s a number the group doesn’t track.
She’s satisfied with progress made across broadcast TV, cable and streaming, but sees plenty of room for improvement in commercials.
“If we just got up to the 5 percent mark, that would be Herculean,” she says. “And what Marc said was right. We want to give people the guidelines to help them do it fairly and accurately.”
On a videoconference announcing the film and study today, Pritchard said ads from Pantene showing LGBTQ people or from Gillette showing a first shave by a transgender male with guidance from his father make particular sense for those brands, because of the importance of hair and first shaves as rites of passage for people who come out or for young males.
But he added in an interview that simply including LGBTQ people in ads where sexual preference or gender aren’t central to the story is another step more brands can take.
Prior installments the past two years in the P&G-branded Great Big Story series have focused on efforts by LGBTQ employees for equal treatment inside the company. But the latest film delves more into P&G advertising, including 19th century print work for Ivory that might be a milestone for early, albeit closeted, LGBTQ ad portrayals.
“Am I imposing something I’m seeing as somebody who’s living in modern day on something … from more than 100 years ago, or is this really suggestive?” asks Brent Miller, global LGBTQ equality leader for P&G, as he’s shown examining Ivory ads at P&G’s archives.
“It is suggestive,” chimes in Ed Timke, an advertising historian and instructor at Duke. “It was out there, but it was hidden.” Timke also points to other 19th century ads by the same illustrator, “who we’re 99 percent sure he was gay.”
The earliest LGBTQ portrayal in a TV spot that Mike Wilke, founder and executive director of the AdRespect Advertising Education Program, has found was a 1952 ad for Ban Roll-On featuring a man in drag. A 1994 ad for Ikea, sometimes credited as the first national ad showing a gay couple, was actually only shown once after 9:30 p.m. in New York and Washington, then pulled quickly after bomb threats were called into stores, Wilke says.
He gives P&G high marks – scores of 100 – for ads since 2014 for Tide, Vicks, Pantene, Head & Shoulders and Gillette in the U.S., Thailand, India and the Philippines. But there have been a couple for Gain Flings that got score of 60, meaning “caution,” the past two years, including a portrayal of a man on the backside of a unicorn costume.