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Lara Kings­beer is cam­paign­ing for change

Fol­low­ing on from a suc­cess­ful com­pe­ti­tion with DIVA last year, Prideam, the world’s first LGBT+ or­gan­i­sa­tion for peo­ple work­ing in the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try, is launch­ing a new brand make-over chal­lenge. We spoke to na­tive New Zealan­der Lara Kings­beer, an ad­ver­tis­ing ac­count man­ager and mem­ber of Prideam, to find out why di­ver­sity is still sorely lack­ing in the ad in­dus­try.

DIVA: Hi Lara! Tell us a bit about you and your back­ground.

LARA KINGS­BEER: I’m just an­other Kiwi in Lon­don in search of a good soy flat white. I moved over to this side of the world last year and trav­elled for a few months be­fore set­tling in Lon­don. I hap­pily iden­tify as a lip­stick les­bian and am on the look out for other “L” friends in the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try.

How did you get into ad­ver­tis­ing?

I stud­ied cre­ative ad­ver­tis­ing back in NZ and was lucky enough to get into an agency straight out of uni­ver­sity.

You’ve said the LGBT com­mu­nity is “pretty much in­vis­i­ble” in ad­ver­tis­ing. How does that af­fect you, per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally?

When I started my first job in ad­ver­tis­ing in 2014, I still iden­ti­fied as a straight woman. Re­gard­less of my in­ter­nal ques­tion­ing around my sex­u­al­ity at the time, I was def­i­nitely not as aware as I should have been of the ridicu­lous lack of rep­re­sen­ta­tion of mi­nori­ties within ad­ver­tis­ing (both in­side and out­side of the ads). It wasn’t un­til I came out at work that I started to re­ally no­tice how straight and white our briefs were.

I couldn’t re­call ever see­ing any les­bian pres­ence in the ads I was sur­rounded by and there wasn’t a huge gay pres­ence at my agency. Per­son­ally, this made me feel like be­ing a gay woman in ad­ver­tis­ing was a bit like be­ing a uni­corn (do they even ex­ist?) and I quickly sought out the one other uni­corn at my work­place for guid­ance. Pro­fes­sion­ally, this drove me to en­cour­age my clients to rep­re­sent their tar­get au­di­ences cor­rectly, mi­nori­ties and all. Our dol­lars are worth just as much as ev­ery­one else’s, so why are we still in­vis­i­ble in ad­ver­tis­ing?

How does that cul­ture af­fect the kind of cam­paigns that are cre­ated?

I think we’re rather guilty of cre­at­ing

ads that re­flect the peo­ple who make them, and the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in this in­dus­try are straight, cis­gen­dered, able-bod­ied, white peo­ple. We need to be more self- crit­i­cal and take re­spon­si­bil­ity as cre­ative fa­cil­i­ta­tors for en­cour­ag­ing our clients to rep­re­sent a wider va­ri­ety of peo­ple and not just those they sit next to in the of­fice. I have no doubt that if we had a more di­verse group of peo­ple work­ing within the in­dus­try, we would see this re­flected in the ads.

Why do you think ad­ver­tis­ing still has such a di­ver­sity prob­lem?

I wish there was a sim­ple an­swer to that. It’s some­thing we’re all very aware of and slowly but surely the in­dus­try is start­ing to be­come a bit more di­verse, but it’s just not hap­pen­ing fast enough. Nev­er­the­less, I do be­lieve that the “Mad Men” days are com­ing to an end and I’ve been lucky enough to work un­der some in­cred­i­ble, strong women – that prob­a­bly wouldn’t have hap­pened 20 years ago.

Have you come up against overt dis­crim­i­na­tion in the work­place?

I get called “dude” a lot by my male col­leagues but I must ad­mit, I don’t re­ally mind that. All in all, I’ve been lucky with the qual­ity of peo­ple I’ve worked with thus far.

Did you ever have doubts about be­ing out as a les­bian?

I haven’t had any doubts about be­ing out since I came out to my fam­ily. Per­son­ally, I think that your gen­eral hap­pi­ness is in­trin­si­cally linked to be­ing able to be your au­then­tic self. It makes me re­ally sad that over 60% of LGBT+ grad­u­ates are go­ing back into the closet when first en­ter­ing the work­force. This is why there re­ally needs to be more of an em­pha­sis for work­places to foster a sup­port­ive and open-minded environment that al­lows peo­ple to feel that they can bring their au­then­tic selves to work, if they choose to.

Do you bring your own ex­pe­ri­ence as a gay woman into the cam­paigns you work on?

I can only try. Since join­ing Prideam, I’m far more aware of the statis­tics around LGBT+ rep­re­sen­ta­tion within ad­ver­tis­ing and there has been more than the odd oc­ca­sion where I’ve whipped these out in brief­ings or morn­ing cof­fee chats to try and per­suade peo­ple to see things in a dif­fer­ent light. My re­cent favourite is that a 2014 study proved that in­clud­ing LGBT+ peo­ple in your cam­paigns does not alien­ate het­ero­sex­ual men and ac­tu­ally makes your brand more at­trac­tive to het­ero­sex­ual women. That’s al­ways a goodie to have up your sleeve, but of course I’d love to get to a place where I don’t need to go in “armed” with such facts.

What is Prideam and why is be­ing in­volved so im­por­tant to you?

Prideam is the world’s first LGBT+ or­gan­i­sa­tion for peo­ple work­ing in the in­dus­try and aims to re­move LGBT+ prej­u­dice from the work­place. We pro­vide sup­port and in­for­ma­tion for all LGBT+ peo­ple and ad­vo­cate fair and ac­cu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of LGBT+ peo­ple in com­mu­ni­ca­tions. As I men­tioned ear­lier, be­ing a gay woman in ad­ver­tis­ing feels a bit like be­ing a uni­corn – a rare sight­ing – and we don’t get much air-time. I was lucky enough to have a les­bian role-model in my first agency which made the “cor­po­rate come- out” a lit­tle less in­tim­i­dat­ing. Be­ing in­volved in Prideam, I hope I can be that role model to some­one else out there. We’re ini­ti­at­ing change by en­cour­ag­ing clients, agen­cies and brands to com­mit to LGBT+ di­ver­sity in ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing through the likes of our Pride Brand Makeover chal­lenge and comms and events within our Prideam mem­ber­ship scheme – sign up on­line!

How im­por­tant is it to have in­clu­sive and di­verse ad­ver­tis­ing that avoids to­kenism?

I can’t re­ally em­pha­sise enough how im­por­tant it is. If our in­dus­try does not re­flect our so­ci­ety, how can we hope to iden­tify and con­nect with it? But even with 50% of 18-25-year- olds iden­ti­fy­ing as “not 100% het­ero­sex­ual”, it’s still rare to see ac­cu­rate (or any) rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the LGBT+ com­mu­nity in ad­ver­tis­ing. Of course, there are many other un­der­rep­re­sented mi­nori­ties within mar­ket­ing but we are now start­ing to see brands mak­ing strides in the right di­rec­tion, with cam­paigns such as Mal­te­sers “Look At The Light Side”, which launched dur­ing the 2016 Par­a­lympics. The TV com­mer­cials ( TVCS) in­cluded a few peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, but that didn’t make them ads cen­tred around disability. It just gave an­other group more or less air­brushed out of ad­ver­tis­ing some vis­i­bil­ity. And com­mer­cially, this step paid off big time, with Mars UK re­veal­ing that the cam­paign proved to be the most ef­fec­tive ad­ver­tis­ing for the brand in the last decade. Re­flect­ing so­ci­ety pays off.

Are there any other ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns, LGBT or oth­er­wise, that par­tic­u­larly stand out to you as an ex­am­ple of good prac­tice?

My favourite ad to date is from the Wells Fargo “Learn­ing Sign Lan­guage” cam­paign, which in­cluded a les­bian cou­ple as a part of a se­ries of TVCS show­ing how the bank could help peo­ple achieve their dreams, with the tagline: “To­gether we’ll go far.” This par­tic­u­lar cou­ple were adopt­ing a deaf child and it showed the hours, de­ter­mi­na­tion and ef­fort that the par­ents put into learn­ing sign lan­guage to com­mu­ni­cate with their daugh­ter. It could have eas­ily fea­tured a het­ero­sex­ual cou­ple but the bank chose to in­clude a les­bian cou­ple. That’s what we’re ul­ti­mately striv­ing for; to be vis­i­ble, to be in­cluded. What made this an ef­fec­tive and au­then­tic move by Wells Fargo was that this wasn’t just a su­per­fi­cial cast­ing move, but re­flected the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s di­ver­sity strat­egy and core ethos.

If you could re­work a clas­sic ad­vert to be in­clu­sive and di­verse, what would it be and how would you do it?

A cam­paign we’ve dis­cussed want­ing to re­make at Prideam is Ap­ple’s Think Dif­fer­ent cam­paign – “Here’s To The Crazy Ones”. The spot it­self is still won­der­ful, but how great would it be to see a cam­paign ap­plaud­ing all of the in­cred­i­ble LGBT+ peo­ple that have changed the world? Peo­ple like Alan Tur­ing, Ellen De­generes, Sally Ride and Chris­tine Jor­gensen. Our com­mu­nity is rarely cel­e­brated or re­ferred to as he­roes and yet there are so many of us and so many be­fore us that have paved the way, not just for the LGBT+ com­mu­nity but for so­ci­ety. I’d like to see a cam­paign that hon­ours these peo­ple.

Find out more about Prideam’s brand makeover at prideam.org. MEET LARA KINGS­BEER, AN OUT LES­BIAN AMONG THE MAD MEN OF THE AD WORLD IN­TER­VIEW

CAR­RIE LYELL “If the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try does not re­flect our so­ci­ety, how can we hope to con­nect with it?”

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