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GLAAD’S VISIBILITY PROJECT FINDS MISSED OPPORTUNITIES FOR LGBTQ INCLUSION IN SUPER BOWL ADS, DRIVEN MOSTLY BY QUEER CELEBRITIES AND NOT EXPLICIT LGBTQ STORYTELLING
- Last updated: February 12, 2024
Volkswagen leads the charge in explicit LGBTQ storytelling with ad featuring overt affection and support for queer marriage
Ad tracking revealed an increase in overall LGBTQ inclusive ads, but zero trans representation
Sunday, February 11, 2024 – GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is reacting to a lack of LGBTQ storytelling in ads that aired during Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday, February 11 and is reminding brands, corporations and advertising agencies why including the LGBTQ community in cultural moments such as the Super Bowl is so crucial.
GLAAD tracked an increase of representation from 2023 to 2024 (4 ads to 10 ads), along with visibility for bisexual women and queer women. GLAAD commends Volkswagen for featuring overt affection and support for gay marriage and e.l.f. featuring a drag queen, countering a year of anti-drag and anti-LGBTQ legislation and narratives led by a minority of extremists. The majority of ad time, however, was dedicated to white LGBTQ representation instead of intersectional visibility and representation for transgender and nonbinary people was missing.
Per GLAAD’s inaugural Advertising Visibility Index, brands are missing opportunities to capture consumers by relying on LGBTQ celebrities as spokespeople without additional storytelling.
GLAAD’s Visibility Project, launched in 2021 with P&G to grow LGBTQ inclusion in advertising, tracked ads that aired during Super Bowl LVIII. Among them this year, 10 ads from e.l.f., Hellmann’s, Homes.com, Mountain Dew, NYX, Paramount+, Starry, and Volkswagen explicitly featured LGBTQ people, of which only one from Volkswagen included explicitly LGBTQ storytelling, and three came from a single brand, Homes.com.
These ten LGBTQ-inclusive ads can be found below:
- e.l.f, In e.l.f we Trust, featuring Benito Skinner and Heidi N’ Closet
- Hellmann’s, Mayo Cat, featuring Kate McKinnon
- Homes.com, A Goldmine of Local Intel, We’ve Done Your Homework, and What He Said featuring Dan Levy
- Mountain Dew: Aubrey Plaza Having a Blast, featuring Aubrey Plaza
- NYX, That’s Suspicious, featuring Cardi B
- Paramount+, Sir Patrick Stewart Throws a Hail Arnold, featuring Drew Barrymore
- Starry, It’s Time to See Other Sodas, featuring Ice Spice
- Volkswagen, An American Love Story, featuring a lesbian wedding
“While the NFL proudly states football is for everyone, advertisers this year did not reflect that reality during commercial breaks,” said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Brands like Volkswagen that move beyond merely featuring an LGBTQ celebrity, and brands featuring intersectional representation of LGBTQ people as well as other diverse communities will win out in the long run. Over one in five members of Gen Z are LGBTQ and more than half are self-described allies. Super Bowl advertisers are missing out on a major opportunity to attract the next generation of employees and consumers.”
GLAAD and Kantar released the inaugural Advertising Visibility Index in June 2023 at Cannes Lions. It found only 3% of the 2022 ads on national linear television from the top ten largest advertisers included LGBTQ people. Over 70% of the inclusive ads featured LGBTQ celebrities and only 1.42% of screen time was spent featuring LGBTQ people. The Index included a Kantar and GLAAD survey of U.S. consumers that showed use of known LGBTQ celebrities as the least important factor to consumers behind other factors including displays of empathy and humanity, and realistic stories. Consumers also had difficulty recognizing the 2023 Super Bowl ads that included LGBTQ celebrities as inclusive.
“Consumers have clearly communicated a desire for multi-dimensional and realistic representation for LGBTQ people,” said Meghan Bartley, GLAAD Senior Director of Agencies, Brands, and Engagement. “Brands like Volkswagen this year and McDonald’s the previous who lean into storytelling are listening to their consumers and not allowing anti-LGBTQ narratives to sway what they know to be true: LGBTQ inclusion is good for business and good for the world. We thank Volkswagen for raising the bar for other brands by creating visibility for our community even as extremists push back on our existing rights.”
In 2023, before the start of the game, McDonald’s aired an ad starring Cardi B and Offset that featured a queer couple, the only inclusion of non-celebrity LGBTQ actors of the evening. That same year, the NFL also committed to LGBTQ-inclusion in their own halftime NFL Super Bowl LVII Commercial Run With It with a cameo by out tennis legend and LGBTQ champion Billie Jean King.
Notably, in 2020, there were at least eleven LGBTQ-inclusive ads from Amazon Alexa, Budweiser, Doritos, HGTV, Microsoft, Olay, Pop Tarts, Sabra, Tide, TurboTax, and Under Armour that aired during Super Bowl LIV. In 2021, at least four LGBTQ-inclusive ads from M&M’s, Michelob ULTRA, Logitech, and Paramount+ aired during Super Bowl LV. While the visibility of LGBTQ entertainers and notables within these ads is significant and illustrates progress from previous years, few spotlight LGBTQ stories and voices in definitive and expansive ways.
On Wednesday, February 7th, GLAAD and the NFL hosted their 3rd annual “A Night of Pride” celebration. Ahead of Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas, Nevada, LGBTQ and allied celebrities, activists, and athletes gathered at Caesar’s Palace to promote inclusivity in sports and spotlight how far the football world has come in terms of LGBTQ acceptance.
Other guests in attendance included NFL Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Jonathan Beane as well as LGBTQ leaders, voices, and allies including model Brooks Marks, Jeffrey Rohrer (Cowboys LB, Ret.), Paramount’s Chief Global Inclusion Officer Marva Smalls, former NFL player and artist R.K. Russell, NFL Correspondent Ryan Mitchell, filmmaker Sav Rogers, chairperson of CBS Sports Sean McManus, actor Zeke Smith, alongside GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis among others.
The evening was hosted by former *NSYNC member Lance Bass and included a live performance by singer-songwriters Neverending Nina and VINCINT. There was also a panel discussion moderated by out journalist LZ Granderson on how inclusion in sports advances acceptance for LGBTQ people. The panel featured veteran pass rusher Carl Nassib, the NFL’s first openly gay player to play in a regular-season game, along with trailblazer and NFL replay assistant Desiree Abrams and Kevin Maxen, the first out male NFL coach.
In 2021, GLAAD launched the Visibility Project, a campaign in partnership with P&G to drive and to sustain LGBTQ inclusion in ads and marketing. Despite the fact that 1 in 6 Generation Z adults identify as part of the LGBTQ community, a 2021 study by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found only 2% of characters in ads from the annual Cannes Lions festival were LGBTQ. With the Visibility Project, P&G and GLAAD are bringing together the world’s top brands and ad agencies working to advance LGBTQ inclusion in ads, creating and providing tools, techniques and resources for industry executives, and harnessing the power of advertising to accelerate LGBTQ acceptance.
GLAAD’s research showcases both positive audience reception to LGBTQ inclusion in ads, as well as a growing willingness from brands to include LGBTQ people in ads. In conjunction with the launch of the Visibility Project, GLAAD & P&G released findings from “LGBTQ Inclusion in Advertising and Media, Advertiser and Agency Perspectives” Study, which showed that marketing and ad executives are more concerned about the risks of inauthentic representation and response from the LGBTQ community than with a public backlash for including LGBTQ people. Read the full study here. In May 2020, GLAAD released the findings from its first study with P&G called the “LGBTQ Inclusion in Advertising and Media” study. The study details how non-LGBTQ Americans respond to TV, films, and ads featuring LGBTQ representation. Results demonstrated high comfortability around viewing LGBTQ images in the media, favorability towards brands with LGBTQ-inclusive advertising, and that inclusive media images lead to greater acceptance and understanding. Read the full study here.
About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.
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