Lucy McKillop, Outvertising: “Make a difference”

“Make a difference”

Only a few days into Pride Month, and it is clear that there is still a long way to go. As companies splash the Pride flag across their social media profiles, and Pride themed products are released in store, the onslaught of backlash from a vocal minority is a reminder that we still have work to do. But it’s also a month of standing up for yourself and others, being an ally to colleagues, friends and family, celebrating the community and raising awareness.

In the latest episode of our Identity Architects podcast, InfoSum's VP, Corporate Marketing, Ben Cicchetti, sat down with Lucy McKillop, Joint-CEO at Outvertising and Global Brand Director, Carat, at Dentsu International, to discuss her work at Outvertising, LGBTQ+ representation in advertising, Pride, and more.

“We talk a lot about ‘you can't be what you can't see’ in advertising, and we talk a lot about making sure that you know there is this kind of role modeling going on from the senior people working in advertising so that the younger generations know that they can proudly be their whole selves at work. But when you think about this idea of seeing people in music, film, TV, my earliest memory is [...] seeing Missy Elliot [...] and Annie Lennox [...]. This idea that you didn't have to fit that norm and you could express yourself as you wanted to was really exciting to me, and it wasn't necessarily about their sexuality or how they identified. It was more about this idea of being who you are and being proud of it.”

Representation in media has come a long way over the last decade. TV shows like Heartstopper and RuPaul’s Drag Race have enabled the current generation to see their love represented on TV, and celebrate their queerness. But there is still lots of work to do, especially in the business world. 

“Representation at a c-suite level is like the gold standard in role modeling. And I wish that I saw more queer people in senior positions around the industry and also not just around the industry but in senior positions in the UK generally. I mean it feels mad to me that there are still moments of like, oh you know this politician has come out as gay and you're like ‘yeah so what’. I just think it feels mad that today it's still a thing. So it would be great if we could get to a point where yes people can come out because coming out is wonderful and life-affirming and all of those things but also to the point that newspapers are like ‘don't really feel like this is a headline’.”

So true! And it's important that every company is doing everything they can to provide those role models, giving everyone the feeling and confidence to live their true authentic selves at work and outside of it. If you can't see someone else being successful as their true authentic self that looks like you, sounds like you, and acts like you, then it's really hard to see yourself in that future role. That is one of the reasons why Pride Month is so important.

“Pride is important and it's not just important, it's necessary. It's like an imperative. Because without Pride, the queer community doesn't necessarily have the opportunity to protest, to celebrate, to have a dedicated time or period to feel like there's a culmination of our energy. [...] On the one side, yes, it's really important that these opportunities are generated for the community but I think we've hit a point now where the pride month ‘celebrations’ need to be backed up with tangible action.”

Absolutely. It’s so important that we have these dedicated moments over the year - not just Pride Month, but also other events such as Women’s History Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, Trans Awareness Month, etc. During Pride Month, for example, it is important that companies not put pressure on LGBTQ+ employees to represent the community. Many are feeling fatigued and for some, it is a traumatic time.

“I think there is a huge amount of fatigue attached to that and expected performance, so my feeling is that, yes it's important but also just tread lightly and tread carefully with your queer colleagues because at the moment the world is a pretty traumatic place for queer people. [...] It's important and we've got to do it but it has to be done in a way that allows people to not engage as well because it's too much and people need to step back.”

It’s definitely important to also take these things into consideration. In a personal sense but also in the work environment, by doing things that help the LGBTQ+ community outside and beyond just Pride Month. Companies should start by ensuring their workplace is inclusive and supportive by offering gender-neutral bathrooms, mental health support, employee resource groups and more.  

“It's important to have pride, and it's many things to many people. Celebrate pride. Protest pride. Be serious about pride. But if you are a commercial entity and you are looking to do something around pride, make sure that you've got a policy and care to back up your rainbow logo.”

Well said, Lucy. There are too many companies that feel it is sufficient to make a superficial logo change, and then not thinking any further about Pride Month or what they can actually do to help the LGBTQ+ community. But there are also brands such as Oreo, The North Face, and Absolut Vodka standing behind the community 100 percent.

“In this current climate, expect to receive backlash if you are displaying a rainbow logo, make sure that you have tangible action to back that up. And if you receive any backlash, stand your ground, double down, keep doing it because we have the stats that show that ultimately it doesn't matter how many people hate your brand so long as enough people love your brand.”

We could not agree more. Outvertising is doing a fantastic job in the UK, bringing the community together, educating organizations, mentoring LGBTQ+ youth just starting out in the business world, and more. Which is why we asked Lucy to tell us more about what they are doing.

“Knowing I can make a difference makes me motivated. [...] It's the most important thing that I do on a daily basis. It's literally about defending people's lives and people's livelihoods and people's right to be themselves. [...] We exist to make the UK advertising and marketing industry complete. LGBTQIA+ inclusive. [...] I'm never not in complete awe of the people that I get to work with at Outvertising every day. So thank you to those wonderful people and if anyone listening to this wants to get involved, we have a volunteer scheme called the Outvocates.”

Thanks for the chat, Lucy!

Anyone who wants to learn more about Outvertising, check out their website at www.outvertising.org.