Changing Perspectives: How to be an LGBTQ+ ally, not just an advertiser

Josh Green
By Josh Green | 20 February 2024
Josh Green.

The MFA DE&I Council would like to see an industry where everyone can thrive, feel heard, supported, and safe to do their best work. Let’s meet the Changers who are sharing their own lived experiences to inspire us all to change for the better.

This contribution, from MFA DE&I Council Chair Josh Green, is timed to coincide with the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.

As Mardi Gras sashays towards us, the Sydney LGTBQ+ community is readying itself for its time in the pop culture spotlight. Floats are being built, costumes sewn, and Oxford Street readied. Public surfaces are adorned with sparkles, rainbows and the occasional drag queen.

The advertising industry isn’t immune to the fervour.

Like moths to a flame, the allure of sequins, false eyelashes and Kylie Minogue is hard to resist. Particularly when it’s accompanied by the tantalising promise of bolstering brand image.

After all, most brands aren’t regular brands – they’re cool brands… at least for all of February and the start of March.

While many set out with the best of intentions when it comes to Mardi Gras, it sometimes feels like they’re fair-weather friends to our community. They love us when it’s warm enough to strut around in a midriff top and hot pants, but as soon as the first leaves start to fall, it’s back to BAU.

At least, that’s how the story has been.

In 2024, I think we’re at something of a turning point… better equipped than ever to approach the most fabulous time of year with a more nuanced hand.

And that’s because there has never been more representation of the LGTBQ+ community in pop culture. Heartstopper, Lil Nas X, G Flip, RuPaul Season 16… the list goes on! Don’t get me wrong; it’s far from perfect. But it’s prominent and enduring enough that it’s slowly beginning to shift the needle.

And just as Australia’s understanding of the LGTBQ+ community improves, so too should the way advertisers, agencies, and brands choose to amplify and connect with it.

So, where do we start?

Here, I’ve compiled my top 5 tips on how to support the LGBTQ+ community like a pro during Mardi Gras and – crucially – beyond.  Let’s dive in!

  1. Have a clear why (hint: it should involve giving back to the community)

Any media entity looking to leverage the power of the LGTBQ+ community should have a clear reason for doing so, ensuring it ladders back to some kind of commitment. Maybe it’s about your talent casting practices, maybe it’s about a charity partnership, maybe it’s about pathways programs. ‘Because Mardi Gras is fabulous’ and ‘but my second cousin is gay’ does not cut it.

A sensational example of this is Minter Ellison, a law firm that proudly marches in the parade and backs it up where it counts: by offering pro bono legal support to Mardi Gras for over 25 years.

  1. Allyship is a 365 day a year commitment

Sure, some days are bigger than others. It’d be boring if they weren’t! But if you are going to go large during Mardi Gras, think about smaller, more enduring signs of allyship you can support year-round.

Here at Spark Foundry, we include pronouns in our e-signature and have progress flag lanyards to ensure that we are constantly visualising our allyship.

  1. Apply an intersectional lens

The LGBTQ+ community is defined by its diversity yet often media applies a 2D lens that privileges cis-gender, white gay men. Consider how you can provide opportunities for members of the community who feel less visible.

During World Pride last year, Publicis Groupe created an event specifically focused on supporting intersectional queer representation. This became an essential part of the brief to our partners and resulted in a line-up of performers who represented not only the queer community but also diverse ethnic backgrounds, body types, sexualities and genders.

  1. Let me ‘edutain’ you!

While the temptation during Mardi Gras can be to host a fabulous party and whack out some themed cocktails, it’s also an amazing time of year to educate allies. If you are exploring an event, think about how it can be complemented with a panel discussion or training for your organisation.

  1. Reading is fundamental

Do your research first to understand what matters in queer culture. This might look like exposing yourself to LGBTQ+ media, talking (respectfully) with friends who are members of the community, and engaging with resources from organisations like ACON and Minus 18. This was you can devise initiatives that are based in reality and not just perception.

I also Chair Publicis Groupe’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group – Égalité – and part of our remit is working with our clients to provide community consult where appropriate. It’s as simple as sitting down when an idea is in its infancy and having a chat. What’s more, it invariably makes the idea better.

As we dust off the boas and tighten our chorey, let’s not forget that Mardi Gras was – and is to this day – a protest before it’s a party. Considering the above ensures you respect the legacy while also giving a sparkly wink to its future.

Josh Green is Strategy Director at Spark Foundry and Chair of the MFA DE&I Advisory Council.

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