Channel 4’s annual diversity award will focus on LGBT+ representation after finding the community features in just 3% of UK ads.
The award, which offers £1m worth of commercial airtime to the winner, calls on the advertising industry to create adverts that include realistic portrayals of LGBT+ people without being tokenistic.
In addition to the winner, Channel 4 will also match-fund a maximum of four runner-up campaigns with commercial airtime worth £250,000.
Channel 4 began the awards in 2016 and has focused on a different area of diversity every year. Last year’s award was won by the RAF for its portrayal of female pilots with previous competitions focused on disability and mental health.
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Matt Salmon, Channel 4’s head of agency and client sales, says: “Channel 4 is determined to drive change in this area and we particularly want to challenge advertisers to up their game in the representation of people from the LGBT+ community.”
The focus on LGBT+ representation comes after a study by the broadcaster found that the community features in just 3% of ads despite making up at least 6% of the population. The general public believes the level of representation to be much higher, estimating that 22% of adverts include LGBT+ people.
The YouGov research, commissioned by Channel 4, analysed 1,000 television adverts over a two-month period alongside a survey of 2,000 people and LGBT+ specific focus groups.
The results found that 60% of those surveyed believed that, when represented, LGBT+ community are shown in a negative way often supporting “tokenistic roles”. On top of that, same-sex relationships were rarely seen as part of a family unit.
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The advertising industry is also failing to represent diversity within the community, rarely showing bisexual, gender fluid and transgender people.
This perception was replicated within LGBT+ focus groups, who felt advertisers resorted to stereotypes such as lesbians as ‘butch’, gay men as ‘camp’ or showing gay characters in a party scenes.
Salmon adds: “Our study, and the focus groups we conducted alongside it, showed that despite the lip service paid to diversity, there’s still a long way to go before we have authentic representation in television ads.”
The closing date for written submissions is 10 July 2019.