Trend - BITE sized marketing trends

It’s A Matter Of Pride

Brands and the LGBT community

Channel 4 - London in Pride - WCRS
Channel 4 - London in Pride - WCRS

This week is Pride in London; the LGBT festival that climaxes in a colourful parade marching through the gay heart of Soho. The topics of love, desire and identity are being explored in galleries, theatres and even churches across the capital. It’s not surprising brands want a piece of the conversation, but when does the real message of inclusivity get lost under a rainbow coloured veil of commerciality?

Skittles gave up their rainbow, whilst brands from Barclays to Tesco are supporting new colourful versions of theirs. A hit with the creative industry, we have to ask if these temporary brand gestures can create a truly meaningful and lasting impact to the LGBT community?

At the Cannes Lions everybody was talking about diversity. I mean everybody. “Come out; be honest. I am what I am and that’s a pretty good brand idea,” said Sir Ian McKellen. The 78-year-old Oscar nominee and gay rights activist was in town urging brands to include more diverse role models within their stories. A little less conversation a little more action, as the lyrics go.

What we see is so important when it comes to reframing concepts of LGBT, gender, race, mental illness, and religion. Anyone who has a role in creating, distributing, and telling stories at any level in the advertising and editorial industries, has the ability - and responsibility - to better represent the diverse audiences they are speaking to.

Imagine how powerful it is, especially for a young person, to see a character on screen that they can actually relate to. When Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang interviewed Lena Waithe for their new Netflix series Master of None, they hadn’t envisaged the part being played by a black lesbian. So taken with Waith’s audition, they rewrote the entire script. The stand-out Thanksgiving episode, where Waith’s character comes out to her family, was written in part by the actor herself. This personal expression within the project created one of the show’s most authentic and popular characters. “You don’t want to be the face of something, you want to be the voice,” said Waith. 

Therein lies the real question: who are the brands re-writing the script from the inside? Those who are increasing minority representation within their ranks, among their management and in their board rooms? “This industry has the immense power to change the stereotypes, to break the stereotypes,” said Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook. She’s not just talking about the content we make. We have to be responsible for the whole operation, from factory too floor. Inclusivity is not just a marketing idea.

Some brands are getting it right. Channel 4’s latest partnership with London in Pride sits alongside a special season of LGBT programmes. Four powerful 30” films tell the stories of four characters, each contemplating the loss of a relationship with a loved one, which has come about because they wouldn’t accept them for who they are. The ads mark 50 years since Parliament first voted to start legalising homosexuality. However 50 years on, the LGBT community still faces a daily battle for equality, with 42% of Londoners falling victim to hate crime in the last 12 months.

Visit other parts of the world and the struggle is even harder. In Istanbul an increasingly conservative government has just banned a pride parade in the city, for the third year in a row. At the end of this rainbow are real people, facing real discrimination. As creatives we have the ability to give one another a voice, to persuade one another, to change one another, to motivate one another to action. Because action is what’s needed. Not another rainbow coloured logo.

Channel 4 airs Pride in London’s first ever TV ads

To mark 50 years since Parliament first voted to start legalising homosexuality, Channel 4 will air Pride in London’s first ever television adverts. Four powerful films will be shown during a special season of programmes on Channel 4. The 30” films tell the stories of four characters, each contemplating the loss of a relationship with a loved one, which has come about because they wouldn’t accept them for who they are. 

Iain Walters from Pride in London said, “Partnering with Channel 4 for this LGBT+ season is an incredible opportunity to showcase the diversity of our community. We have come a long way in 50 years, yet we face daily reminders that the global battle for true equality is far from over, and rights hard won can be threatened, attacked and taken away. Standing together with Channel 4, we will send a powerful and positive symbol of acceptance, support and friendship.”

In addition to the Pride adverts, Channel 4’s iconic blocks will be reversioned into rainbow colours to reflect the LGBT flag. On 8th July, the day of the Pride in London parade, more than 50 special guests and supporters of the LGBT community will take over all continuity announcements. 

Channel 4 Sales Director Jonathan Allan said, “Diversity is at the heart of everything we do at Channel 4 so we’re delighted to host these powerful films which deliver such an important and moving message during this special season of content.”

Agency: WCRS, London

LGBT Londoners have been a victim of hate crime in the last 12 months
people take part in Pride in London
Channel 4 - Pride in London - WCRS
Channel 4 - Pride in London - WCRS

Skittles gives up it's rainbow

Skittles are traditionally TV-led, but as our core target becomes harder to reach through this channel alone, it needed to find new ways to make an impression. Their objective was to find a relevant new occasion for Skittles that would resonate with a broad millennial audience. Their activity focused around Pride in London to help support the LGBT+ community at a time when it mattered most. Whilst every other company adds a rainbow to their brand to show support, Skittles took the unprecedented move to give up their rainbow, to show that Pride’s was the only one that truly mattered. To prove their commitment to the cause, they made sure the new branding went all the way to the packaging, and even the sweets themselves.

Agency: adam&eveDDB, London

Skittles gives up the rainbow - Adam&eveDDB

Grand Theft Auto - Los Santos Pride

To follow Stockholm Pride’s mission to spread love and equality – they created a digital pride parade inside one of the most violent games in the world – Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA 5). The Los Santos Pride parade – named after the fictional city within the game – was free to download, so every player could have their own digital pride parade inside the game. The modification (a plugin that modifies the game) was created together with real Grand Theft Auto 5 fans across the world and was launched with a trailer on Youtube and Facebook. To honour the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the whole parade was made indestructible. Why? Because love will always triumph over hate.

Agency: Gabergs, Stockholm

Coca Cola - Pool Boy - Santo

Brother and sister fight over Coca Cola pool boy

In it’s latest TV spot, Coca Cola has put a modern twist on their iconic Diet Coke man formula by having a brother and sister both lust after a handsome pool boy. The siblings stare out of the window longingly at the good looking young man cleaning the pool. The action follows as they both race outside, tripping over each other, to offer him a Coke, only to find their mum has already beaten them to it. This light-hearted creative idea is a nod of support from the brand to the LGBT community.

Agency: Taste the feeling, Santo London

Coca Cola - Pool Boy - Santo

About the author

Kara Melchers, Managing Editor, BITE

Kara has editorial control over BITE, Creativebrief’s daily insight into global marketing trends and the cultural movements driving them. She runs BITE INSPIRE sessions in the UK and US, for brands including Virgin Atlantic, A.G. BARR, British Gas and Pepsico. She also presents at our BITE LIVE events series and industry festivals in London and New York. Get in touch if you’re working on an interesting project