A new market research study conducted exclusively for BuzzFeed by JWT, a global advertising firm, reveals key insights on how American consumers react to LGBT-inclusive advertisements.
The survey of 500 Americans of various ages, regions, and other demographics, found that overall, 8 in 10 consumers agree "showing gay or lesbian people in ads simply reflects the reality of our society today."
"The survey results are very useful in revealing that the vast majority of Americans (80%) feel that showing LGBT characters in ads simply reflects the reality of society today," said Mark Truss, director of brand intelligence at JWT. "We also know that ads can often serve as a beacon for societal norms. These findings suggest that when diversity and acceptance are authentic and on-strategy for the brand, LGBT-inclusive ads will be met with a high degree of acceptance and benefit the advertiser."
Six in 10 consumers agree "brands that show same-sex couples in ads are being appropriately inclusive," according to the survey.
Slightly fewer respondents — or 57% — agreed with the statement that "it's cool when I see same-sex couples in ads."
"Brands are always looking for ways to better connect with their customers, and one way they do this is to look at what's happening in the culture that surrounds their target audience," Truss said of the results. "From a brand perspective, identifying cultural shifts and leaning into them — again, when it's consistent with the brand and its strategy — can be very powerful."
Most American consumers believe brands that feature same-sex couples in advertising are brave and modern.
Overall, 72% of respondents said they view brands with such ads as "brave," which in the advertising and marketing world "translates to leadership," Truss said.
And 71% of respondents agreed with the statement "Gay, lesbian, black, white, tall, short: who cares who brands show in ads?"
However, a segment of the population — or 40% of survey respondents — indicated TV ads are "no place for same-sex couples." Most of those respondents identified themselves as men, conservative, religious, and from older generations.
How overtly or prominently gay and lesbian people are featured in the ads makes a difference in how the ads are received, according to reactions from respondents when they were shown examples.
An ad for Target's wedding gift registry featuring a same-sex couple holding hands and lightly embracing was viewed as more controversial than an Amazon Kindle television ad in which a man refers to another as his husband. Specifically, 61% viewed the Target ad as "controversial" while only 28% found the Kindle ad controversial.
Further, 84% of respondents said they liked the Kindle ad, while only 48% said they liked the Target ad. The Kindle ad was also more relevant to respondents.
Most Americans, though, have not been exposed to mass marketing campaigns featuring gay and lesbian couples, the survey found.
"The data showed us that only a minority of Americans (36%) see ads featuring members of the LGBT community," Truss said. This could be due to where such ads have been placed, but mostly because featuring gay and lesbian characters is a relatively new practice in advertising and will likely change as more leading brands produce inclusive ads. Others, Truss said, will continue to take a "wait-and-see approach."