Celebrating Pride in Advertising Year-Round

4 ways to avoid pinkwashing

It’s a Pride Month norm to see a lot of LGBTQIA+-themed advertising – unfortunately, each year some brands miss the mark and are accused of pinkwashing.


‘Pinkwashing’ in advertising, similar to its climate-change counterpart ‘greenwashing’, superficially supports LGBTQIA+ people for profit.


Not all representation is good representation. Pinkwashing can dilute radical roots, distract from prominent issues LGBTQ+ people face, misrepresent people, and promote support for companies or countries that are having negative effects on LGBTQIA+ people (inwardly or outwardly).


Here’s a quick guide to avoiding pinkwashing in advertising during Pride Month and beyond! 🏳️‍🌈



Pride Month might be relegated to June, but LGBTQIA+ people, their cultures, and the issues that affect them exist all year round.


Pride Month provides great advertising opportunities as LGBTQIA+ people and culture are thrown into the spotlight, but cashing in on the hype for one month a year and ignoring those communities when it’s less profitable the rest of the year, is damaging.


That relegates LGBTQIA+ people’s cultures and existence to a single month. Practice genuine inclusivity by authentically representing the community throughout the year.



You may have heard of history being ‘whitewashed’ – history can be ‘pinkwashed’, as well.


Some parts of LGBTQIA+ history may be uncomfortable, but they’re fundamental aspects of Pride. Education and commemoration of the AIDs crisis, the radical roots of Pride, and modern-day struggles such as anti-trans rhetoric and laws are essential to Pride’s existence. After all, it’s a month for community first, and advertising second.


These topics are difficult to fit into effective advertising, especially in ways that aren’t seen as unethical profiteering – but there are ways to do it effectively. For example, our ShowHeroes Studios production arm showcases premium, brand-safe videos in multiple languages that showcase all aspects and history of the LBGTQIA+ community, like this educational video about the history of UK pride.


Whether including LGBTQIA+ history in advertising or not, it’s important to remember that Pride isn’t about advertising – it’s about culture, history, and people, and advertising should always come second to that or risk overshadowing what’s most important: respect for all humans.



There are stark differences in the amount of representation different demographics of LGBTQIA+ people get in advertising, as well as a lot of inaccurate or even harmful representation.


Trend and profit chasing in advertising have historically been a part of the issue. For example, the reason why gay men are disproportionately over-represented compared to other LGBTQIA+ demographics in advertising dates back decades, as advertisers hoped to cash in on male double-income households.


There isn’t a single solution to the issue of under-representation and inaccurate representation – each demographic of LGBTQIA+ people deserves well-researched sensitivity. For example, a British survey has found that lesbian women feel profoundly under-represented in advertising, but the issue is more complex than a numbers game – lesbian women have, over the years, been over-sexualized in advertising, presented solely in ‘straight-passing’ ways, and much more.


Effective LGBTQIA+ advertising should be sensitive to the various demographics of LGBTQIA+ people around the world, and strive to represent them equally and accurately.



LGBTQIA+ inclusive advertising can overshadow company cultures or values that leave a lot to be desired.


To avoid pinkwashing the company image, make sure that LGBTQIA+ people are treated within and by your company with equity and inclusion. That includes but isn’t limited to having strong LGBTQIA+-friendly HR and hiring processes in place, ensuring there isn’t discrimination against LGBTQIA+ clients or customers, and fostering inclusive company culture year-round.


For example, ShowHeroes partners with Alaya to provide initiatives for colleagues to learn more about, and be more active with, the LGBTQIA+ community, promoting everything from education to supporting LGBTQIA+ events and businesses.


ShowHeroes also has formed an internal Diversity, Equity & Inclusion task force, which collaborates to promote education and inclusion throughout our company.