Companies must begin to consider the gay community in their marketing or risk prosecution by impending regulation, business advisors warned today.

The 2006 Equality Act, which comes into force later this year, guarantees access to goods and services regardless of sexual orientation.

UK businesses had until last week to respond to the government consultation document, Getting Equal.

Marketing company, the Ingenious Group, claims corporate marketing departments have traditionally overlooked the gay community, viewing consumers mainly by age and targeting their efforts at grey or youth markets, missing out on the £70 billion spending power.

To educate businesses on what the new legislation will mean and how companies can market effectively to gay consumers, Ingenious Group is producing ‘The Pink Pound Conference on June 22 2006.

Leading businesses including Hilton Group, BT and Egg will be presenting practical insight into how companies can go about successfully engaging the gay consumer. Business influencers will also get legal advice from a leading city law firm, Bates Wells Braithwaite, and The Advertising Standards Authority.

Jean Collingwood, Ingenious Group chief executive, said: “Its encouraging to see a growing number of companies and household brands wanting to understand how the new legislation will impact on their bottom line. Just as the Age Discrimination bill forced companies like Saga to change its policies, similarly gay targeted marketing will see far reaching effects.

“This legislation may also signal the end of poorly executed, over stereotyped and offensive campaigns that fail to resonate with the changing attitudes and lifestyles of gay consumers.

“The gay consumer is considered one of the most discerning and can give a real insight into changing attitudes and lifestyles,” said Ian Johnson, managing director, Out Now Consulting.

“Companies are well advised to buy in expertise from gay marketing specialists who can really help to devise strategies, run research programs and launch campaigns that are far more effective when targeting gay customers. Conferences like The Pink Pound Conference will address these crucial issues and help business respond to new legislation.”

Understanding how to market to gays and lesbians is no longer just an option for British brands, it is becoming a business imperative,” said Mr Johnson.