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Raising awareness of the unique challenges LGBTQ+ people face in their everyday lives is paramount to our mission as a queer-first media brand. It’s why we choose our partnerships carefully, working with businesses that have a genuine concern for LGBTQ+ issues and supporting and celebrating our community.

As one of the most prominent healthcare companies in the world, GSK Consumer Healthcare has continually lent their commitment to bettering the lives of LGBTQ+ people. Allies are crucial in our journey towards true liberation, and their support can help push forward real change. As a healthcare company, GSK has a special purpose to help people do more, feel better and live longer.

“We believe good marketing starts by putting the consumer at the heart, and that also means reflecting the diversity of modern society,” Jerry Daykin, Senior Media Director, GSK Consumer Healthcare tells us. “We also believe in the power of diversity to cut through to broader audiences, and the power of positive representation to tackle stereotypes.”

For GSK, one of their core values is making sure their workplace is inclusive and celebratory of all people who work there. It has resulted in them achieving a Top 10 placement in Stonewall’s Equality Index, which recognises progressive and inclusive internal approaches to LGBTQ+ issues. Their LGBTQ+ network, Spectrum, now has more than 1,000 members made up of LGBTQ+ people and allies who are helping to shape change and promote an inclusive culture. There’s a mentoring program to help develop future talent, and there’s a pledge to ensure LGBTQ+ voices are included in high-level decision making. What’s more, Spectrum has been recognised by Stonewall as one of the very best network groups in the country.

So back to our first point: the business of raising awareness. For a fun new campaign, we’ve joined forces with Sensodyne, which we all know as the No.1 dentist recommended brand for sensitive teeth*. That’s why we have a drag queen sipping on an ice-cold cocktail: so Gingzilla can find out if she needs Sensodyne in her life to be able to enjoy her favourite food and drink. Spoiler alert: she does. In all seriousness, we’ve worked with Sensodyne to create the brand’s first ever queer-focussed campaign that features a diverse range of LGBTQ+ people and their beautiful smiles.

“The LGBTQ+ community is a rich, varied and valuable audience, and there is much more that we can do to effectively engage them with better targeting and tailored content,” says Louise Vincer, Digital & Marketing Acceleration Director, GSK Consumer Healthcare. “Our products are designed for everyone and we’re grateful to be starting this journey with GAY TIMES to celebrate the breadth of that audience.”

At this point you know why GSK are such a powerful LGBTQ+ ally and our reasons for working on a campaign with them, but you may be asking why we are focussing so specifically on oral health for LGBTQ+ people? Raising awareness. What a lot of LGBTQ+ people may not know are the unique issues we face when it comes to oral health. The challenges are varied. For a start, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to smoke and so their risk of oral infections are higher. We’ve reported many times before on the unique stress factors LGBTQ+ people face, leading to lower levels of self-esteem, anxiety and a decline in motivation. This can result in LGBTQ+ people not taking care of themselves and avoiding regular dentist check-ups.

Then there’s the issue of LGBTQ+ people suffering from higher rates of STIs, which can lead to oral infections. Elsewhere, trans people may self-medicate with hormone treatment bought online, and some HRT medication can cause oral health problems, according to the LGBT Foundation.

All of this means maintaining and ensuring good dental hygiene is something that our community needs to take extra seriously. We’re (rightly) told from an early age that brushing your teeth twice a day is essential, so making sure you are using the right toothpaste is much more important than you may have initially thought when you started to read this piece.

The LGBTQ+ community is a rich, varied and valuable audience, and there is much more that we can do to effectively engage them with better targeting and tailored content.

GSK – through this campaign with Sensodyne and GAY TIMES – have used their resource to make sure that queer people are aware of these unique challenges. The video is colourful, uplifting and positive – and that’s exactly what it should be. It’s important to see queer people living their best lives, celebrating their diverse identities and being the focus of a campaign like this. But it also serves to get people thinking about their own oral health, surfacing the challenges we may face as LGBTQ+ people and driving further awareness of them. That’s the power of targeted and purposeful advertising.

“We’re committed to driving this change through individual partnerships like this, and more broadly in our role co-leading the World Federation of Advertiser’s Inclusion & Diversity Task force,” says Jerry. “Personally I also volunteer at Outvertising, an organisation supporting LGBTQ+ people like myself working in advertising, as well as encouraging brands to make more fantastic and inclusive content. Research by GLAAD and P&G in the US has shown that audiences exposed to more inclusive advertising are more likely to support equal rights for LGBTQ+ people, so we really can make a difference.”

GSK continues to proactively support and platform LGBTQ+ people by investing in their experiences and ensuring their existence isn’t overlooked. Diversity and inclusion isn’t a project for them, it’s built into the very fibre of their company. This isn’t a one-off campaign for GSK, but rather the start of a long-term commitment to serve and support LGBTQ+ consumers and the community. In some ways their work challenges other companies to meet the same expectations, pushing forward progressive, inclusive and purposeful campaigns that are authentic and meaningful for LGBTQ+ people. This is proof that while raising awareness is important, it can also be fun.

*GSK Data on File. GFK Research, 2019 survey of 300 dentists.