How Adobe Stock is embracing diverse and inclusive imagery as consumers seek authenticity

Illustrated image by Andrea Vollgas; person holding Pride flag like a cape

Credit: Andrea Vollgas on Adobe Stock.

More brands are featuring inclusive imagery in their advertising as they seek to connect with diverse consumers who want to see themselves represented in the media. Pride Month has become a focal point for these efforts, with marketers showing their support for the LGBTQ+ community in a variety of ways. Whether they’re adding rainbow colors to their products and offerings, or spotlighting a diverse group of people in their ads, brands are celebrating Pride Month with greater enthusiasm than in years past.

Marketing and advertising executives feel that their Pride-themed campaigns have a significant effect on public attitudes. A recent GLAAD and Procter & Gamble survey found that 61 percent of advertisers and 60 percent of agencies said they strongly agree that companies that feature LGBTQ+ people and scenarios in advertising are helping consumers understand and respect LGBTQ+ people.

Authenticity in these campaigns is especially important, with many advertisers also recognizing that inauthentic representations of LGBTQ+ people in advertising could trigger a public backlash and negative sentiment towards the brand.

Adobe is Dedicated to Inclusivity

Amid this growing demand among consumers for brand transparency and authenticity, Adobe Stock is committed to expanding its collection to provide imagery and videos that are diverse and inclusive, while being respectful, with realistic portrayals of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Our mission is to make sure that the Adobe Stock collection represents the world around us, and a big part of that is providing inclusive content with an authentic narrative,” said Sarah Casillas, head of content at Adobe Stock. “We’re striving to provide imagery of underrepresented communities that traditionally haven’t had much visibility.”

Pride Month has special significance for Casillas as the parent of a transgender son who is about to leave for college. She understands the importance of accepting and supporting how people identify themselves and being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’m committed to being a strong advocate for equality and fair treatment of all LGBTQ+ people,” she said. “Actually, I feel like I’m beyond an advocate.”

Born out of the political activism of the LGBTQ+ people and allies as they sought to draw attention to issues like discrimination and violence against members of the community, Pride has helped to raise awareness among younger consumers who prioritize social causes.

Three quarters of Gen Z and millennial consumers say they actively seek out brands that support the same causes they care about, according to a recent Causes, Charity and Activism study by YPulse. The market research firm found that LGBTQ+ rights were among the most important causes supported by U.S. teens. As these young people become adults, their spending power grows. Brands want to ensure they stay aligned with the population that increasingly supports a more diverse and inclusive world.

Adobe Stock has several initiatives and programs that creators of all levels can take part in, to help broaden the current collection of more than 230 million images with inclusive content, and continue to provide outstanding creative work to make the world a more vibrant place.

Adobe Stock Advocates – Be Seen. Be Heard. Be You.

The Adobe Stock Advocates program seeks to support new voices and display a visual culture that is sincere and impactful. The Adobe Stock team asks creators to join its community by submitting their best photography, illustrations, vector art, and videos to the collection. Advocates earn royalties when customers use the work in media projects such as advertising.

“The goal of the Advocates program is to build a more diverse and inclusive collection,” Casillas said. “All visual creators can participate in this — there’s a seat at the table for people from any and all underrepresented communities.”

To help inspire creators and urge them to participate in the Advocates program, the Adobe Stock team designed eight “creative briefs” that outline themes for visual content that’s in demand, inclusive, and will encourage diverse perspectives. For example, the “identity and gender” brief describes a need for authentic, empowering and everyday narratives that represent people from across the gender spectrum and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. The idea is to explore the lived experiences of individuals and communities through the lens of gender, especially as more brands prioritize inclusive visuals in their advertising.

The Adobe Stock Advocates’ creative briefs urge visual artists to explore changing ideas about beauty, the role of food in culture, and even the diversity of religious rituals. To celebrate their work, the Advocates program features outstanding work by artists from underrepresented communities and allies across various digital properties, such as the Creative Cloud website, Adobe Blog, and social channels.

“The Advocates program is a significant step toward building a more diverse and inclusive stock collection,” Casillas said. “We can’t wait to see what the artists will create next.”

Artist Development Fund

As part of the commitment to inclusive imagery, Adobe Stock launched the Artist Development Fund in 2021 to offer financial support to artists from underrepresented groups, including the LGBTQ+ community. With a pledge of $500,000, the funds are used to help artists offset production costs such as hiring models, renting spaces and covering equipment costs so that creators can produce more accessible and authentic work, regardless of financial status.

The creative commission program has a variety of selection criteria, including the ability of artists to portray their diverse regional, ethnic and lifestyle communities authentically, with the content created by fund recipients available to license at no charge, exclusively, for one year.

The initial eight recipients of development funds represent a wide variety of visual cultures throughout the world. Among the first group of creators is Gerardo Rojas Juárez, a visual artist who lives in Lima, Peru. His visual project will portray the daily life of his LGBTQ+ community in the country. He studied editorial design and typography at the Universidad de la Rioja, and currently is studying advertising with a focus on photography.

Gerardo Rojas image of transgender person  running with Pride flag

Credit: Gerardo Rojas on Adobe Stock.

Andrea Vollgas is a queer feminist illustrator, storyteller and creative mentor who lives and works in Germany and Switzerland. She planned to use the funding for a project that focuses on underrepresented people including women and the LGBTQ+ community. Her goal is to use her artwork to create a diverse and representative visualization of today’s society and beliefs.

Andrea Vollgas illustration of two hands holding on colorful background, that says 'freedome, equality, pride'

Credit: Andrea Vollgas on Adobe Stock.

In collaboration with the Adobe Creative Residency program, funds are awarded to each of the artists as they undertake projects that depict their communities and unique experiences in a fresh, inclusive way.

“We’re still accepting applications from artists, and we encourage more people to participate,” Casillas said. “The first recipients of funding reflect our ambitions to provide artists from underrepresented groups with a platform to showcase their work as we champion diverse and inclusive content.”

Creating a more accepting society doesn’t happen overnight, and there’s always more work to do to advance diversity and inclusion. We’re committed to investing more to move our company and industry forward to achieve equal representation for marginalized communities. Artists, creators and brands are a critical part of this – after all, the success of anyone is dependent on the success of everyone.

Here you can learn more about Adobe Diverse Voices and watch our Pride Month “Create Change” episodes, such as ‘Embrace Your Weird’ with Christian Cowan and Viviana Matsuda, and ‘Channeling Authenticity’ with Wanda Sykes and Maurice Harris. Additionally, read more about how Adobe supports the LGBTQ+ community during Pride month and beyond, here.