Q5: A matter of Pride, with Mark Runacus [interview]
by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) Meet the chairperson of PrideAM, the world’s first LGBTQ network for advertising. UK industry veteran Mark Runacus, who is also co-founder and planning partner at London agency Wax/On, shares insights into championing inclusivity and diversity.
Q5: Tell us the story of PrideAM — how did it all start?
Mark Runacus: The idea for PrideAM came about at the end of 2015, when a small group of out UK LGBTQ ad industry figures — Nick Bailey, Jan Gooding, Scott Knox, and Matt Scarff — united to create what was then described as a leadership group. As the group quickly grew in size, it changed from being a networking and support organisation to more of a lobbying group. The network’s aims were then established. Those are:
- To promote the fair and accurate representation of LGBTQ people in advertising and marketing communications
- To remove any LGBTQ prejudice from the advertising and marketing workplace, and promote an open and inclusive creative environment
- To promote positive LGBTQ role models in the advertising and marketing sector
- To provide support and information to LGBTQ people working or seeking to work in the advertising and marketing sector
PrideAM is entirely volunteer-run, is not for profit and, in fact, survives on just a few hundred pounds each year to pay for essentials like web-hosting. The organisation is non-commercial to preserve its editorial independence. That’s because PrideAM publicly celebrates great LGBTQ-inclusive advertising, and privately calls out instances when brands do it badly, miss opportunities, or offend and are prejudiced.
PrideAM is focused on lobbying for positive LGBTQ representation in paid advertising and marketing, recognising that other organisations are working hard to improve LGBTQ representation in areas like entertainment media. We recognise that our efforts should form part of a broader and integrated diversity and inclusion strategy.
Q5: What are the organisation’s goals for 2019–2020?
MR: This year, we are focusing on producing an updated guide to creating LGBTQ-inclusive advertising for a mainstream audience. It’s called Outvertising and will be available free on our website. It will contain a how-to guide, case studies, and interviews with LGBTQ leaders and straight allies from the UK advertising sector.
Another key theme is the development of role models in the creative workplace, and we will continue to provide free workshops to LGBTQ people and straight allies to help develop those role models. We’d love to do more but, with very limited resources, it’s important we remain effective and do a few things well.
Q5: How can brands and agencies promote positive change in terms of queer representation?
MR: It’s important that brands first work out how they can play an authentic role in the diversity and inclusion space. Tokenism is never acceptable. They should start from within by ensuring they are an exemplary inclusive employer. From an LGBTQ point of view, do they have an internal LGBTQ network with senior management representation and support? Are their HR policies welcoming of the LGBTQ community? For example, what is their transitioning policy? Their LGBTQ parenting support? Gender-free bathrooms?
Q5: Does PrideAM have representation outside the UK?
MR: We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received since we launched, and are delighted that, as our members have moved around the world, they have started PrideAM sibling networks in other countries. Canada and the US have come first, and we’d love people from other countries to join our welcoming family, too.
Q5: How can readers get involved?
MR: Anyone is welcome to volunteer and get involved in PrideAM: you don’t even have to work in marketing and advertising, though some experience or understanding of the sector would be useful. In aiming to be as accessible as possible, there’s no membership fee to pay; we just welcome active support.
Runacus explained that people in South Africa could join in by campaigning remotely, citing writing and blogging as examples of helpful contributions. He added that PrideAM would be willing to assist in the formation of a local chapter — with the caveat that they are volunteers “with almost no cash and limited resources”.
- Find out more about PrideAM at prideam.org.
Carey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to MarkLives.com, her new regular column “Q5” aims to hone in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with experts in media, marketing and design.