Why aren’t brands beating down the door to advertise in LGBTQ+ media all year?


“Please Sir, can I have some more? ~ Oliver Twist

As the former President of the National Equality Media Association, I have often been asked why many national advertisers seem to ignore LGBTQ+ advertising, especially print advertising, most of the year except during PRIDE? As publishers we have all heard comments about how brand logos are draped with rainbow colors during June but, come July 1st there is not a rainbow to be found anywhere.

I have been speaking out for years about how brands have taken the LGBTQ+ market for granted knowing that we will keep buying their products and services all year if we just see them supporting us during PRIDE. This is great for them and why wouldn’t it be? Brands can focus their advertising budgets on the one month out of the year that they think matters and in return we give them our loyalty and dollars for the remaining 11 months of the year.

My answer to my colleagues in LGBTQ+ media about why this seems to be the case is simple; because we allow it and we have allowed it for years. We have allowed brands to pander to us once a year and get away with it. We have mostly taken the stance that we are lucky to get crumbs from their diversity budgets because we had received little to none in just the recent past. 

As publishers many of us remember how ecstatic we were whenever any brand showed us the slightest bit of attention within their advertising campaigns. We have become accustomed to accepting crumbs, but my how the times are a changing.  

Before I go on too much further, I want to share some general statistics that may surprise you. 

According to some recent data here is what I found:

  • African Americans make up 12.7% of the U.S. population or roughly 42MM people
    • Annual Purchasing Power in dollars: 1.2 TRILLION which translates to an average of $28,571.00 per person
  • Hispanic Americans make up 17.8% of the U.S. Population or roughly 59MM people
    • Annual Purchasing Power in dollars: 1.7 TRILLION which translates to an average of $28,813.00 per person
  • LGBTQ+ Americans make up 5% of the U.S. population or roughly 16.5MM people
    • Annual Purchasing Power in dollars: 1 TRILLION which translates to an average of $60,606.00 per person

Based on an estimated 2020 population of 331,000,000 people in the U.S.
Statistics Source:  www.neilsen.com

You can see by the numbers above that LGBTQ+ consumers spend annually twice as much as either African American or Hispanic consumers. Our community also spends more than both African American and Hispanic consumers combined in the U.S.. So, given these numbers why does there seem to be so few national advertising campaigns in LGBTQ+ print/digital media?

Clearly it is evident statistically that our demographic spends more in almost every measurable category, so the question remains, why aren’t advertisers beating down the door to get to us? 

That’s the $64,000 question isn’t it? 

From one perspective it can be traced back to our community just being grateful for any advertising during a time in the recent past when brands could and would be vilified for doing so. Fast forward to present day, we are now so used to being marginalized that it has become almost comfortable in its familiarity.  Though we as a community have made great strides forward in recent years we still believe that we don’t deserve or have the right to ask for more, so in many cases we won’t.

However, with an annual economic impact of a trillion dollars, yes, $1,000,000,000,000, it’s time for LGBTQ+ media to demand a seat at the table with brands and agencies that wish to do business with our community. We cannot and shouldn’t continue to accept the crumbs laid at our feet once a year and be thankful for it. 

We as an industry must continue to learn about the evolving needs of brands and agencies and move the dialogue forward by asking them what they want and then create it. We need to represent the LGBTQ+ consumer, not from a position of weakness and timidity but, rather from a position of strength, knowing exactly what our demographic can mean to a brand’s bottom line.

In the recent past many brands such as “Big Pharma” built their businesses on the backs of local, regional, and national LGBTQ+ media because they knew local publishers had the trust and authenticity within the communities they served. These brands also knew that almost 100% of the readers of LGBTQ+ publications were their target market and they became successful because of it.

They once recognized the value of advertising in these publications, but after years of doing executing the same stale strategy they became too dependent on the advice and insight from one perspective. This tunnel vision approach eventually led them to saturation in 10-12 major markets. The resulting saturation and an evolving media environment became the catalyst for “Big Pharma” to decide to cease much of its LGBTQ+ print advertising, instead, pivoting to focus more on mainstream TV and programmatic digital campaigns.  

It’s well documented that we are a desirable consumer demographic and can help brands become successful, it is about time that we recognize it, own it, and start demanding to be treated accordingly.

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