Home Advertisement Trans and non-binary representation becomes more widespread in advertising

Trans and non-binary representation becomes more widespread in advertising


  • Brands are including more and more LGBTQIA + people in their advertisements.
  • This is the latest example of marketers who are committed to societal causes.
  • But there is a risk if consumers think brands are capitalizing on causes for their benefit.
  • This article is part of a series called “The Cost of Inequity,” which examines the barriers that marginalized and disenfranchised groups face in various sectors.

In April, travel company Orbitz launched “Travel As You Are,” a nationwide advertising campaign promoting inclusiveness, with prominent LGBTQIA + figures including Cameron Lee Phan, a non-binary Vietnamese American model. The campaign reverted to one of its campaigns in the early 2000s, when it first created ads featuring openly gay couples, drag queen personalities and celebrities.

Ads featuring LGBTQIA + people, including trans and non-binary people, have increased in recent years, according to a February GLAAD study, which found 15 top brands collectively running inclusive ads during the Super Bowl in 2020 and 2021 with LGBTQIA + people being largely invisible until then. And brands are addressing the LGBTQIA + community more and more in their products.

Mattel introduced a “non sexist dollin 2019. Levi’s released their first genre-less collection called Unlabeled in 2020. Starbucks launched an ad with a trans boy assuming his new identity for the first time. Mastercard, Citi and BMO Harris have started letting transgender and non-binary people use any names they choose on their credit cards as part of an initiative called True Name. And United Airlines has given people the option of choosing a gender other than male or female when booking a ticket.

“Twenty years ago the only places you saw gender nonconformity in any way, maybe it was just on MTV with RuPaul or makeup,” said Kendra Clarke, vice president. senior in data science and product development at advertising agency Sparks & Honey. , who identifies as a black woman, queer and not binary. “Now it’s much more common.”

Since then, celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Elliot Page have sparked the conversation as beauty and fashion influencers have blurred the lines between the sexes. Makeup brands Benefit Cosmetics and Elf Beauty said they have featured non-binary and trans models in their ads since around 2015.

Overall, marketers are increasingly partnering with societal causes to appeal to consumers.

“People focus on IQ and QE, but we have an internal metric that we call ‘DQ’ or the decency quotient, which is that we should do well as a business by doing good for society.” , said Raja Rajamannar, Marketing Director at MasterCard. “Transgender and non-binary people have been harassed, targeted and discriminated against, and it’s something that we realized that we could not only take a stand, but also an issue for them that we could solve.”

Millennials and Gen Z, in particular, resist labeling and are more fluent and vocal about their gender identity than previous generations. Fifty-six percent of millennials and about half of Gen Z adults in the United States consider binary gender notions to be outdated, according to a study by the Bigeye advertising agency based in Orlando, Florida. And nearly 60% of people aged 13 to 21 think forms that ask questions about gender should include options other than “male” or “female.” according to Pew Research.

According to marketing strategist Bob Witeck, LGBTQIA + Americans also have a purchasing power of $ 1,000 billion. quoted by NBC News. With an increase in the size of this group (5.6% of American adults identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in 2020 compared to 4.5% in 2017, according to Gallup), brands realize the value of adapting their marketing accordingly.

“When you see societal changes like this as a brand, you have a choice: either you lead the culture, or you accompany the culture, or you follow it,” said Kory Marchisotto, Director of Marketing at Elf Beauty. . “You need to make sure that you are aligned with your community. If you’re a brand that doesn’t celebrate inclusiveness today, you might be struggling to meet your business goals.”

Since Citi launched its True Name cards in October, it has seen more than 10,000 people update their names on their cards. And Benefit’s 2020 “Love Archually” campaign, which featured trans influencer Nikita Dragun, generated more than $ 600,000 in online sales at Sephora, according to its senior vice president of marketing, Jennifer Whipple.

But there is a risk if consumers think brands are only capitalizing on the LGBTQIA + community for their benefit.

“Representation can backfire on communities when communities are alternated and not included throughout the process,” said Asad Dhunna, founder and CEO of The Unmistakables, a UK-based consultancy firm.

“There is a saying among disability activists, ‘Nothing about us without us’, that brands should apply more broadly to other under-represented communities.”

Spark & ​​Honey’s Clarke predicted the conversation about the genre would continue to gain momentum. The agency tracks cultural and social trends based on online discussions and said the conversation around individual identities is expected to grow to 186% of its current trending size over the next 24 months.

Yet much remains to be done to improve portrayal, with the portrayal of transgender people in advertising. having been practically nonexistent so far.

“We need to reconsider how we can define the trans and non-binary archetype too narrowly,” Clarke said. “Instead, we need to realize that anyone can be behind the counter in a Starbucks ad, or anyone can be an engineer in an IBM ad.”