This weekend sees the culmination of LGBT festival Pride in London, with a colourful parade marching through the heart of Soho on Saturday. Since the end of June, the topics of desire, love and identity have been 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 start to get lost under a veil of commerciality?
Last month, Skittles took the unprecedented move to give up their rainbow, showing 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. A hit with the industry, we have to ask if temporary brand gestures can create a truly meaningful and lasting impact to minority communities?
At Cannes Lions, everybody was talking about diversity. “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 offer up a true reflection of society by including more diverse role models within their stories.
Imagine how powerful it is, especially for the young, to see people 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 speaking on a Getty Images panel at Cannes Lions.
To be truly inclusive we all must be prepared to rewrite the script. Which brands are actually increasing minority representation within their ranks, among their management in their board rooms? “This industry has the immense power to change the stereotypes, to break the stereotypes,” says Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook.
What we see in the media is so important when it comes to reframing concepts of gender, race, mental illness, LGBTQ and religion. “Anyone who has a role in creating, distributing and selecting imagery at any level in the advertising and editorial industries has the ability – and responsibility – to better represent the diverse audiences they are speaking to,” says Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images.
Following on from the highly accredited Paralympics campaign We Are The Superhumans, Channel 4 has continued to put diversity at the heart of the media platform and its operations. The 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 the UK Parliament first voted to start legalising homosexuality. 50 years on the LGBT community still faces a daily battle for equality. 42% of Londoners have been the victim of a 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 a rainbow coloured logo.
Kara Melchers is managing editor of Creativebrief.
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