Are Advertisers Missing Out on Diverse Lesbian and Gay Market?


Advertisers may be missing key opportunities to reach and cultivate a powerful, diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) market, according to a report released today by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's (GLAAD) Center for the Study of Media and Society. The study also notes these missed opportunities can result in significant potential loss of revenue and have created a skewed perception of what has been traditionally viewed as a niche market.

In "'Business, Not Politics': Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgender People and the Consumer Sphere," Katherine Sender, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, the University of Pennsylvania, examines how 30 years of unrepresentative statistics and stereotypes have led to the construction of an artificial LGBT market. Sender's findings are the result of an extensive analysis of gay-targeted marketing and gay images in mainstream advertising, combined with in-depth interviews of 39 marketing professionals who attempt to reach and identify the elusive gay market.

"From the 1970s to the present, marketers have used skewed statistical data -- mostly based on magazine readership surveys and mailing lists rather than reliable demographic research -- to construct a gay market based on an attractive yet extremely narrow image of gay consumers," Sender said. "This image -- male, white, professional, affluent, trend setting, and well-educated -- has been reinforced by the dominance of this demographic among openly gay ad professionals."

As a result, large segments of the LGBT community -- lesbians, people of color, working-class people, bisexuals, and transgender people -- tend to be rendered invisible, resulting in a huge, untapped market that most advertisers have yet to successfully identify and connect with. "Developing a model that truly reflects the diversity of the gay and lesbian community and using it to create more authentic images are crucial to tapping into this market," said Howard Buford, president and CEO of Prime Access advertising, who was among those interviewed by Sender. "Although advertising is not about social change, it can have a profound effect on shaping impressions and perceived definitions of the gay community. A more accurate understanding of who lesbians and gay men really are can result in advertising and marketing efforts that these consumers find more compelling, persuasive and memorable. That's the key to accessing this market."

"Gays and lesbians are reflective of all the diversity our country has to offer, and a truly inclusive portrait of the LGBT market would be more inclusive of the gender, race, ethnicity, age, socio-economic, and educational diversity within the community," said GLAAD Executive Director Joan M. Garry. "By establishing the need for more and better quantification of the gay market and the LGBT consumer, Sender's study offers a crucial window not only on the importance of the gay consumer, but also on the importance of producing advertising images that truly reflect the diversity of our lives and experiences."

"Not only do advertisers have much to gain from offering a more inclusive image of LGBT consumers, they are also missing out on a very loyal market niche," Sender said. "LGBT consumers have shown that they respond very positively to companies that market directly to them, and especially to those that show openly gay images and that advertise in LGBT media."

"'Business, Not Politics': Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgender People and the Consumer Sphere" can be downloaded and read in its entirety at