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Channel 4 challenges brands to better represent LGBTQIA+ communities with £1m diversity award

channel 4Channel 4’s annual Diversity in Advertising award will this year challenge brands to address the lack of authentic representation of LGBTQIA+ people in advertising.

The award, which has been running since 2016, is building on a theme introduced in 2019’s award as it shows there has been zero growth in representation for the LGTBQIA+ community in the past four years.

In 2019, the award was won by Starbucks for its ‘What’s Your Name’ campaign which featured a transgender man being able to use his new name when ordering a coffee.

This time the broadcaster is challenging the industry to be ‘Proud All Over’ and go further in promoting a broader range of diversity, sexuality and identity. It also points to a growing reluctance from brands to showcase LGTBQIA+ communities for fear of a backlash.

The prize for the winning brand is £1m of commercial advertising. This includes airtime on linear TV, All 4 and Channel 4’s YouTube channel. The winner will also receive a bespoke media campaign from 4Studio, worth £100,000.

Why Channel 4 is ditching the All 4 brand and adopting one cross-channel identityChannel 4’s Mirror on the Industry research finds representation of LGTBQIA+ people in advertising has remained static in recent years, with just 3% of ads featuring members of these communities. While this is in line with the latest UK Census data, which indicates that 3.2% of the UK population identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or ‘other sexual orientation’, this is thought to be much higher in reality with 7.5% of the population refusing to answer the question at all.

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The research also finds LGTBQIA+ characters in advertising are three times more likely to be from a white ethnic background (71%) than a black background (23%). Two-thirds (61%) of LGTBQIA+ characters are male, versus 26% female, and LGTBQIA+ characters are 15 times more likely to be assumed 16- to 49-years-old than over 50.

Channel 4’s chief revenue officer Verica Djurdjevic says progress on improving diversity and inclusion in the advertising world still remains “disproportionate”.

“We are incredibly excited to present an enhanced LGBTQIA+ brief this year to reflect the full spectrum of this community and look forward to creative campaigns pushing new boundaries,” she says.

10 years of ‘Superhumans’: Inside Channel 4’s transformational Paralympics campaignLast year’s award theme was disability, which saw Vanish win the £1m award with a pitch for a campaign that educates viewers about the realities of autism. Channel 4 has awarded a total of £8m in airtime to date.

This year, Channel 4 is also ensuring the winning campaign follows AdGreen guidelines provided by the Advertising Association, which help reduce the negative environmental impacts of advertising production.

Channel 4 says its own research shows all previous award-winning campaigns have tracked higher on brand recognition and improved brand opinion versus standard creative advertising campaigns.

The winner of the Diversity in Advertising award will be announced in October, with the winning campaign airing on Channel 4 in early 2024.

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