Pride Month 2024

Including LGBT+ characters or individuals in your campaigns is a worthy goal, but caution is advised.  Read on for advice.

Avoid causing serious or widespread offence

Rule 4.1 is important to keep in mind for all sorts of advertising, but it’s a particularly good place to start if you plan to depict LGBT+ characters or individuals in your ads. This rule states that “marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence”.

An ad featuring representations of trans women along with the phrase "spot the stallions from the mares!" and a voice-over attempting to guess the gender of those featured broke the rules because it trivialised a complex issue and depicted several common negative stereotypes. On that basis the ASA ruled it caused serious offence, and condoned and encouraged harmful discriminatory behaviour, despite the advertiser having consulted with a transgender support group during production.

For further advice on offence with regards to sexual orientation and gender identity, see here.

Tone and execution can be key

The tone and execution of an ad is often key when determining if that ad might be considered offensive. For example, the ASA ruled on a TV ad for Pot Noodle, which depicted a male actor dressed in women’s clothing playing the character of a WAG (a male footballer’s wife or girlfriend). The ASA judged that the ad wasn’t offensive towards trans people, as it was likely to be widely interpreted as a mockery of WAG culture rather than of trans people.

Be cautious with sexually suggestive content

The ASA does on occasion receive complaints about homosexuality or gender noncomformity in and of itself, as featured in adverts. It’s important to note that the ASA would never uphold a complaint on that basis alone, as this Harvey Nichols ruling shows. However, advertisers should tread carefully with any scenes which may be deemed sexually suggestive. Any such ads should be carefully targeted, and in general, sexually explicit content should be avoided regardless of the sexual orientations of the characters involved.

For any further guidance required, our Copy Advice team is on hand to provide free, bespoke advice.

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