Wash Your Hands of Rainbow Washing

There’s more to Pride than a rainbow flag slapped behind a logo for a month. As creatives, you’ve got the chance to raise your (bubble-covered) hands and speak up against rainbow washing.

Creative agencies are complicit in rainbow washing. As creatives we are in a unique position. We can influence decision-making when it comes to the representation of LGBTQIA+ causes that despite progress still need fighting for. Brands can play a positive role in change, however there is a fine line between joining forces with a movement or riding its wave. Our job is also to open up dialogues, to contribute rather than take advantage of groups and individuals.

Brands need to bake inclusion into their work from the get-go for creativity to truly represent them. Otherwise, it's all just surface-level. And it all starts from square one, from brainstorming. 75% of Britons think brands focusing activity on Pride month are doing so more because they are trying to maintain a positive public image for themselves.

'Love is Love’ is no longer enough — and we need to move on from that, to 'Do the Work'.

Inclusion should be baked throughout brand work to make sure creativity is a true and authentic expression of the brand. Otherwise, it rings hollow. And it starts at the beginning and thinking of ideas. Go beyond window dressing and implement more substantial initiatives that support the LGBTQIA+ community both within and outside of organisations.


Slapping a rainbow on a brand or overemphasising someone’s identity in an ad to be “inclusive” damages what Pride is continuously working against. Here seven things to look out for.

1. Superficial Representation

If LGBTQ+ characters or themes feel like they're just there for show, without real depth or understanding, it might be rainbow-washing.

2. Not Genuine

If the content doesn't feel real or authentic, like it's missing the true emotions and experiences of LGBTQIA+ people, it could be a sign of rainbow-washing.

3. Harmful Stereotypes

Watch out for content that relies on stereotypes or portraysLGBTQIA+ people in a negative way.

4. Limited Perspectives

If the content only shows one type of LGBTQIA+ experience and ignores others, it might not be genuine.

5. No Consultation

If creators haven't talked to LGBTQ+ people or groups, they might not understand the community well enough to represent it accurately. So consult outside your bubble. Consult with a broad spectrum of the LGBTQIA+ community and other minority groups both within and outside of your organisation to test your ideas before running with them. Foster relationships with charitable organisations that support LGBTQ+ causes, both so you can work with them on initiatives and also run ideas by them.

6. Profit Over People

When it seems like the goal is just to make money off LGBTQIA+ themes without really supporting the community, it's likely rainbow-washing.

7. Ignoring Problems

If the content ignores the real issues LGBTQIA+ people face, it's probably not genuine representation


If you're sticking with just LGBT, you're not only leaving out some letters, but you're also excluding a massive chunk of our community. Embracing LGBTQIA+ is the way to go for a more inclusive conversation. Finding collaborators from the LGBTQIA+ creative community can be incredibly helpful in this. Check out these amazing trailblazers in our community.

Maison Mercury Jones - sonic branding agency

Maison Mercury Jones is the world's first (and only) Trans+/LGBTQIA+/POC led creative agency. Collaborating solely with artists from underrepresented backgrounds, MMJ believes true diversity, creativity and tech innovation are the key to excellence in music for brands and the only way forward to social responsibility, innovation and differentiation through purpose.

Zebedee - talent agency

Authentic representation and inclusion are ingrained in the work Zebedee does every day. As the global leading agency in inclusive representation, they focus solely on individuals who have been historically excluded from the media industry. Their LGBT board is one of our fastest-growing divisions. While they love campaigns that are LGBT-focused and celebrated, the true success of Zebedee is due to incidental castings. Talent who identifies as trans or nonbinary being considered and booked for roles based on their merit, regardless of the job role or how they identify. Photographer of this particular campaign called Sun Dance is Emily Bloomer with model Heidi C.

Antonia Green - copywriter

A Creative Director and Writer, Antonia identifies as queer. She has a killer 25+ year career in the vibrant ad-world scenes of London & New York and thrives on crafting impactful creative work. Whether it’s shaking up start-ups or revitalising established brands, her focus is on uncovering real human insights, cutting through communication clutter, and driving change.

David Wilson – film director

David is a queer director specialising in work that is often radical, subversive, cinematic and always playful! Being against the grain is inherently in David’s DNA. He has worked over15 years in advertising and music vido. And his work has won him multiple acclaim: from being named ‘Best Director’ at the UK Music Video Awards, to a Grammy Nomination, to winning Cannes Gold and a Eurobest Gold. He is represented by Riff Raff Films.

Florence Burns - illustrator & animator

Manchester-based illustrator and animator Florence's digital illustrations are characterised by vibrant colours and dynamic poses, aim to convey stories and evoke emotions, focusing on themes of self-acceptance and empowerment. Openly queer and living with an invisible disability, Florence incorporates these experiences into her work, which spans digital art, Risograph prints, and animated films tackling social and political issues. Her collaborative projects often involve activists and aim to inspire social change, especially within the LGBTQIA+ and disabled communities.

Marwan Kaabour - graphic & visual artist

Marwan is an independent graphic designer and visual artist from Beirut, currently living and working in London. His work with institutions, brands and individuals in the art and cultural sector ranges from creating visual identities, publication and exhibition design, to marketing campaigns, wayfinding systems and art direction for both print and online projects. Marwan Kaabour’s debut book The Queer Arab Glossary published by Saqi Books on June 6 in Europe and September 17 in North America.

Jennifer Shearman - Curator at Queer Britain

Jennifer is curator, cultural producer and researcher. She is the Head of Collection at QUEER BRITAIN: the national LGBTQ+ museum. Jennifer has over 10 years of experience working in curation and cultural production through exhibitions, film festivals, academia, and public programmes. She has taught on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses and has expertise in cultural production, research, curation, arts education, feminism, queer history, film studies and interdisciplinary approaches to art history.

Luke Thornhill - illustrator

Luke is a digital illustrator and is inspired by Pop Art, Semi-Realism, Comic Art, and Pop Culture which has influenced his style of bold lines and pops of colour whilst mixing political or magical elements to his work. He has worked on everything from book covers, editorial illustrations, portraits, large scale designs, album artwork, to comics.

Malik Nashad Sharpe - choreographer

Malik is a choreographer, dancer, and movement director whose work looks at the production of ontology, affect, and subjectivity from the perspective of marginalisation. They often work with the undercurrent, underneath, subversive, and ulterior aspects of what it means to be both fully human, and simultaneously dehumanised, their works have been performed widely.

Samuel Douek - director

Samuel is an award winning Film Director and Entrepreneur based in London. Having trained as an Architect, he began his filmmaking career in 2017 in documentaries exploring LGBTQ+ subcultures, directing several mini-series for Grindr's content channel INTO such as the well-received PROLIFIC. Since 2019 he works predominantly on videos for Virgin Atlantic, Uber, Little Mix, David Guetta, Urban Outfitters, Anne-Marie, Absolut Vodka, Baby Queen and Bimini.