Tag Archives: life

Spotlight: Patrick Sluiter

Motion and 3D Designer Patrick Sluiter has a unique style to say the least. Patrick has designed fantastic work like ‘Strangers’, personal projects and my favourite ‘Stills’ in which he has created an ongoing series based on daily passing thoughts:

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His characters are smooth and almost melancholy which are all carefully created in Cinema 4D, a programme which he has shockingly only been using for 2 years. Patrick cites inspiration in the work of other artists such as Geoff McFetridge, Alexy Préfontaine, Mike Lee, Charlie Harper, Guy Billout, Thomas Hedger, Xavier Cardona and Liron Ashkenazi Eldar.
It’s not just the form of the characters that make his unique style – Patrick’s colour scheme consists of dull, flat colour combinations that go perfectly with the overall aesthetic. Love, love, love his work.

All the animations grew from an idea of a lucid dream that seemed tangible, but would have a sense of abstraction. Some were more ‘out there’ than others but my favourite was a couple that have an outlet and plug prong for faces. There’s a clearly sexual undertone, but the goal was to show compatibility and the subtle motions you use to communicate to your significant other.

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The Atlantic: Michael K. Williams Asks “Am I Typecast?”

Weiden + Kennedy (New York) have created an incredible short film for The Atlantic magazine featuring actor Michael K. Williams, who questions if he is being typecast in Hollywood. This is an incredibly poignant topic, and it was performed in this ad so poetically, discussing issues such as race relations and the US election.

Following The Atlantic’s tagline “Question Your Answers”, the short film conveys four different versions of Michael interrogating each other about whether he can escape being typecast. It’s a topic one would assume shouldn’t be an issue in 2017, but it is and always has been.

David Shane (Director) said:

This was such a nice opportunity for Michael to un-typecast himself because, in one piece, he gets to show his dry comedic timing, his raw menace and the depth of emotion he’s able to access. This is a deceptively simple looking piece – the degree of difficulty for him was so much greater than it looks. He had a lot of balls in the air.

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Meet Julia: Sesame Street’s First Autistic Character

Sesame Street is incredibly nostalgic for me – I used to watch it every lunch time with my mother whilst eating shepherds pie after a morning at pre-school. Random. Anyway, Sesame Street is a truly iconic American show that seems as immortal and recognisable as The Simpsons. The difference between this and other kids shows is that Sesame Street was created (in 1969) as an experiment with the intention of finding out whether television could be used to educate young children. We now know how influential both TV shows and adverts can be on children. Since, they’ve written story lines ranging from basic learning skills to race issues and even coping with death.
On April 10th, “Sesame Street” aired the special episode “Meet Julia” on HBO to introduce viewers to their newest character. Julia was created as part of the ‘Sesame Workshop’ (the non-profit educational organisation behind Sesame Street), alongside their autism initiative, Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children’For years, Sesame Street received requests from parents to feature storylines surrounding autism, so Stacey Gordon (plays ‘Julia’, below) and Christine Ferraro (the writer of the “Meet Julia” episode) who both have close family relationships helped bring this character to life. Stacey was uniquely placed to take on the job as her son has autism: “Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviours through something they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s OK.”

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A common concern amongst parents of autistic children is how their peers will understand, communicate with them and treat them. As autism has such a broad spectrum, the team wanted to ensure that Julia was represented based on extensive research into common traits of kids with learning difficulties.

Bringing Julia to life as a Sesame Street Muppet is the centrepiece of all of our new materials to support families of children with autism. The response from the autism community to See Amazing in all Children has been extraordinary, and we are committed to continuing our efforts to promote understanding and acceptance of autism, as part of our mission of helping all children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder – Sherrie Westin, EVP of Global Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop

Although the team were cautious regarding the representation of such a broad learning difficulty in just one character, writer Christine wants Julia to exist as herself, rather than be known as “the autistic one”. Aside from this, the main aim is to teach viewers about inclusion, understanding and patience. I don’t know if it’s the childhood personal tie I have with Sesame Street, but watching the intro video above actually made me quite emotional – the way in which Julia is represented is so endearing and gentle, with Big Bird patiently trying to understand all the facts about her learning difficulty. Scenes include Julia meeting new people, the relation between autism and eye contact, common physical reactions like “flapping”, becoming overwhelmed when she hears sirens and the heartwarming scene where they all join in on Julia’s version of ‘tag’.

The most important part of this well-written storyline is how they have steered away from Julia’s differences being the source of confusion or fear, and instead created the narrative to focus on the rest of the muppets enjoying their relationships and having fun. Whilst parts of Julia’s behaviour were clearly explained to Big Bird and the viewers, the main focus was on integrating Julia into the group, like all the other muppets. My heart has melted!
It just goes to show that whilst TV can be a very scary place for easily influenced children, creatives and marketers can use their platform to educate in a way that has never been done before.

 

P.S. take a look at the comments on the YouTube video – lots of users have praised the creation of Julia as something they wish they could have seen on TV as children.
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Pepsi, this is how it’s done. Heineken: Worlds Apart | #OpenYourWorld

Remember the best April Fools joke of all time (aka Pepsi’s car-crash ad featuring Kendall Jeanner)? Well, it seems Heineken has taken on the concept of ‘peacemaking via the sharing a drink’ in their new ad “Worlds Apart”.
The spot features sets of people who have opposing views on feminism, climate change and gender. They are tasked with a team building construction project, then shown their VT tapes (which reveal their opinions) and consequently asked if they wish to stay for a beer or leave. Whilst I have my doubts about the authenticity whenever brands use social and political discussions in ad concepts, I think Heineken pulls this off nicely. Pepsi should take note.

At the end of the ad, I found myself smiling about the fact that the transphobic man used the correct pronouns for the trans* woman: “I’d have to tell my girlfriend that I’ll be texting another girl. She might be a bit upset with that, but I’ll have to get around that one.”

What makes this work 10 million times better than the Pepsi ad? Well, agency Publicis London targeted a post-Brexit UK (like Pepsi tried and failed to do in a post-Trump world) by including discussion and conversation within the ad, rather than attempting to create a satire-style video with white-washing for ‘the resistance’. The suggestion that a beverage can heal a very divided society is a strong and fragile statement, and whilst I have my doubts about the intentions of brands who go down this route, this is the perfect counteragent for our Pepsi wounds.

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Pepsi: What Were You Thinking?!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard about the catastrophic backlash Pepsi has received for their new TV and digital campaign featuring TV star and model Kendall Jenner. Created by its in-house creative team, Creators League Studio, we see Jenner on a modelling shoot who joins a protest mid-shoot. What is the protest for? I have no idea. No one knows.

Creatively, the advert is crap anyway. However, in terms of a brand ambassador, Kendall is actually the perfect candidate to reflect Pepsi’s pop culture background, which has previously featured other famous faces like Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Beyonce. They could have worked with her social media influence and her fashion background to create a successful and fun campaign, but instead created a monster that has deeply offended and shocked so many people all over the world.
So how on earth did Pepsi get it so wrong? After a lot of thought since the ad was first released, here are my theories as to how this cultural tragedy unfurled:

  1. Diversity in the workplace: clearly no one of colour had any input in the narrative of this ad. Creators League Studio evidently do not have enough people of the backgrounds that they wish to represent in this ad.
  2. Work and fear culture: how the f*ck did this get approved?! How did no one at the Studio say “wait a minute, this concept seems really contrived”? Is there a culture there that makes people feel unable to stand up for what is right and wrong? I could never sit back and be part of something that I know is fundamentally wrong for humanity.
  3. Experience: without doubt, no one working on the commercial has ever been involved in a protest, experienced inequality, racial profiling, seclusion or segregation. Despite this, even if you have never experienced these things, surely you must know about it? The internet exists. History exists. There is no excuse.

The most disturbing and spoken about part of this advert is the scene were Jenner hands a Pepsi to a police officer. Firstly, this insinuates that protest can be solved by soda, which is highly insulting (the internet has gone meme-crazy on this subject). Secondly, and most importantly, this contrived scene is clearly mirroring that of the real life hero Ieshia Evans who faced police in Baton Rouge:

2016: A Picture and its Story

Ieshia Evans was detained by law enforcement when she protested after the shooting (and death) of African American Alton Sterling near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department. Both prior to that incident and after that iconic photo was taken there have been countless protests in cities like Baltimore, Maryland, and Ferguson, Missouri that occurred due to the police killing of black men. It has become an epidemic that is impossible to avoid on the news or on social media. There is no way Pepsi haven’t seen this image or heard of the protests.
Aside from the shocking claim that a can of Pepsi will create world peace, the contrast of ‘peace givers’ (Iesha and Kendall) is beyond insulting. Kendall is a white, cis, privileged, able-bodied, rich celebrity – if Pepsi wanted to create a peace-making, hero narrative they should’ve chosen an activist or a real-life hero.

DeRay McKesson, a leading activist in the Black Lives Matter movement said:

If I had carried Pepsi, I guess I never would have gotten arrested. Who knew? Pepsi, this ad is trash.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. In a world where violence and discrimination against African Americans has by no means decreased over the last century (if anything, it is getting worse), this has to be the most offensive, tone-deaf and contrived advert created during my lifetime.
What’s equally as perverse as using a real-life protest is the bizarre use of every token minority. The ad desperately tries to feature every single age, race, religion, gender, sexuality – whilst I praise diversity and inclusion in advertising, the clear attempt to show “co-existing” makes the Muslim woman and the “token-black-dude” stand out even more. It’s like they all sat at the casting couch and tried to tick off every single stereotypical type of person they could saying “yeah, she’s ethnic enough”.

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Pepsi’s exploitative brand social activism concept has been spoken about so much that according to data from Amobee Brand Intelligence, digital content engagement around Pepsi has increased to 366% in just a day, including mentions of Black Lives Matter, the use of the phrase “tone-deaf” and tagging the ad as the “worst ever.”
An incredible amount of people have spoken out against how Pepsi have exploited the enduring suffering of marginalised people, so I have no idea how Pepsi will ever come back from this. Yesterday, they removed the ad and released this apology on their website:

PURCHASE, N.Y., April 5, 2017 “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

I’m glad they have apologised, and that the ad has been removed, but I really hope this has been a huge wakeup call for advertising and marketing. I hope Pepsi get rid of their “creatives” and use ad agencies for the future. But, will anyone want to be associated with them? I guess if the price is right…
Pepsi claim that they did not intend to refer to any particular significant issues, but the notion of a protest itself is to make a stand against a social issue. So, what social were they trying to represent? All I see is cringey peace signs and random words. Trivialising protest in an age where people are desperate to see change is an insult beyond repair, in my eyes. I’ve written about jumping on the bang-wagon when it comes to social issues (such as using LGBT characters in ad narratives), and I find myself shaking my head in shame when the scenes cut to young, attractive people blatantly drinking Pepsi (got to get in that product placement) and laughing. This itself shows how the creatives involved have clearly never been involved in anything mildly political, because no one stands around posing, giggling and pouting at a protest. We even see a fist bump. A f*cking fist bump.

Allen Adamson, founder of Brand Simple Consulting said:

It’s trivializing the seriousness of the issue, that merely a can of Pepsi could solve all of the problems on the streets of our country. To some extent, it’s polarizing to the Black Lives Matter movement because it makes it seem like much ado about nothing, if you just passed some out at your demonstrations this wouldn’t happen.

Following this, something that also concerns me is the actors in the advert. Whilst it’s evident that the creatives themselves have no sense of privilege and suffering, why did the multi-cultural cast agree to take part in this ad? Did they not know the entire concept prior to filming? Were they desperate for their next big break? Did the mention of Kendall Jenner appear too appealing to turn down? It’s the same confused, cringe-worthy feeling I had when I saw African Americans defending Trump during the election. How can anyone from a marginalised group associate themselves with this?!

I could spend all day writing about what is wrong with this advert. There is nothing right about it, and if you can’t see how much of a disaster it is, you need to educate yourself and understand your own privilege. We will never move away from segregation, racism and violence if we don’t collectively stand up for what is right. This is beyond poor creative work – it’s a enormous, humiliating and derogatory kick in the teeth.

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Grey becomes Valenstein & Fatt

In 1917 anti-semitism was rife – having a Jewish name would do you no favours in a predominantly white, male industry like advertising. In New York, Jewish entrepreneurs Lawrence Valenstein and Arthur Fatt, set up a company called ‘Grey’ which is now one of the largest advertising networks in the world. However, they didn’t name the agency after themselves like others did, and it’s been debated whether or not Grey would have been as successful with the name ‘Valenstein & Fatt’. As sad and unfair as this seems, xenophobia was the norm, and many Jewish people around the world hid their surnames in an attempt to “fit in” with society, along with other minorities who have done the same.

Unfortunately, it seems as if this attitude towards cultural, religious and racial differences has in fact not evolved as much as you’d expect over the last 100 years – the recent election of the US President is a prime example of how common xenophobia still is, worldwide:

Fast forward to 2017: Everything has changed, and yet nothing has changed.
Too much in this world is still ugly. We know that the more diverse we are, the more powerful our ideas will be. So we will continue to celebrate difference. To break down barriers to progress and opportunity. We believe that everyone has the right to put their name above their door. Whoever you are, wherever you come from. We are Open.

Along with a prejudiced President in the USA, here in the UK ‘Article 50’ is being triggered this week, creating a final divide between the UK and Europe. With these events in mind, Grey is communicating a message of diversity and inclusion by recognising their Jewish founders, whilst hoping to create a conversation about diversity in advertising.
Unfortunately the name change will only be for 100 days, which is a shame, and almost makes this campaign seem like a bit of a gimmick… Although they claim the name change is “a mark of how far we’ve come, but how much there is still left to do”, I can’t help but feel as if it’s just a marketing ploy without any actual lasting impact or strong, dedicated message if they’re just going to change the name back.

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Valenstein & Fatt have written a manifesto about how they will lead by example:

1) We are publishing our diversity data. Progress cannot be made without clear measures and transparency about who we are today. Our new study is independent and in depth and is based on the voluntary responses of 305 individuals, which represents over 60% of the agency and reported according to standards set by the British Office of National Statistics (ONS). Research developed in partnership with PSB examines roots, identity, education and lifestyle. It will be measured and shared annually and we are encouraging other agencies to take it up as their methodology.

2) We are launching a cross industry taskforce to identify the barriers to recruitment and retention of talent among ethnic minorities. The first gathering will be chaired by CEO Leo Rayman, and we are inviting leading organisations in this space and the most progressive agencies, including Chairwoman of Mediacom, Karen Blackett, to join us in agreeing industry-wide initiatives and targets. We will also commit to targets for our advertising output, to ensure that it is nationally representative. 

3) We are launching the Valenstein & Fatt Bursary to pay a year’s rent for up to two young people from ethnic minority and disadvantaged backgrounds. To qualify, candidates must have been offered a job at Grey, be state educated and live outside of Greater London. Applications are open from this summer.

4) We will inspire the next generation, by working with 100 primary and secondary schools to introduce students to a career in the creative industries. Working with Exec Head Michelle Williams and education therapist Jodie Cariss and starting with the New Wave Federation primary schools in London’s Hackney, we will offer a tailor made programme for the schools involved, from assemblies to full day workshops, coaching and agency open days.

5) We will develop our diverse talent. Recognising that recruiting people with different start points isn’t enough, 50 individuals identified as ones to watch will be matched and formally mentored by our Executive and senior leadership. In parallel we will run Community mentoring workshops open to any member of the agency who wants to participate.

That’s all fantastic, and it’s lovely to see such an influential agency speak out against prejudice, but I don’t believe they should have done this without 100% committing to a permanent name change. What’s the point otherwise?

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International Women’s Day: Take Your Pussy Anywhere You Want

Ad agency Invisible Man created this short video for International Women’s Day, specifically for the strike A Day Without a Woman. Arranged by those who organised the march for the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., the strike is in support of the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people, through a one-day strike of economic equity.
The short ad states “Take your pussy anywhere you want. Just don’t take it to work” – due to the pay gap between men and women, human rights activists demonstrated March 8th as a day where women should strike from working if they aren’t going to be paid the same as their male colleagues.

This message is brought to you by a group of creative people who feel strongly that women’s rights are human rights. We believe in using our powers for good and support the efforts of every group trying to make the world a safer and more equitable place for women and girls.

P.S. We also think it’s high time women reclaim the power of a certain word for themselves.

I can’t help but see a nod towards Trump’s “grab her by the pussy” remarks, which works so well as double entendre for someone being paid less just because of what’s in between their legs.

 

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The Boy Who Fell and the Man Who Picked Him Up Again

Illustrator and animator Hanne berkaak collaborated with the Norwegian leading professional organisation in psychological trauma, RVTS Sør, for an animation about self-harm. RVTS Sør work with those experiencing violence and traumas, migration health issues, and suicide prevention. Their primary goal is to ensure that those in need of support are met by conscious and competent professionals in all areas of the health services, with dignity and care.

This topic is really hard to tackle without creating something really obvious, or cringe-worthy, or untrue, or triggering. The list goes on! Hanne has managed to convey the struggles with self harm in an imaginative, relatable and warm way. As someone who is open about my own mental health and self harm addiction, Hanne has created something that I find incredibly relatable, totally appropriate and not like anything I’ve ever seen for this sort of topic. I also like the way in which the adult is portrayed – he is not hysterical or accusatory – which is how the adult confided in usually reacts (from my experience). Hanne portrays the teacher who clearly goes the extra mile for the boy, in a sensitive and calm way. Using muted colours contrasted with bold reds, she represents the physical cuts metaphorically without being distasteful or graphic.

Hanne said:

Doing research for the project, I found that children and teenagers often could remember that one person who did something out of the ordinary and made a huge difference. The film tries to encourage professional support workers to have the courage to meet traumatised children in a dignified way, not as clients, but as humans.

Hanne brought her emotional illustration to life with the help of lead animator My Eklund and producers from Mikrofilm.

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Advertising and Gay Men: How the Media Avoids Gay Intimacy in Advertising

One of the most beautiful and important things about working in the creative industry, whether it’s photography; graphic design; music; dance; acting; writing, is that it allows people of any background, gender, race, sexuality, age to express their opinions and beliefs in whatever medium they wish. The creative industry is at the forefront of self expression and freedom, which has always encouraged and inspired me to pursue a career in this field. Advertising in particular is, as we know, incredibly influential – whether you enjoy ads or just stare blankly during the commercial breaks – they can help convey messages to a wider audience.
Although I am part of British advertising, and we have produced some incredible and iconic work that is undoubtedly timeless, ever since I can remember having an interest in the industry I have been unable to shake off one very obvious tactic used by agencies: appearing pro-LGBT, but avoiding gay men. Obviously, showing gay couples in ads is a very recent (and important) thing, but as equality has progressed so rapidly in the last 10 years I have found myself questioning why the media prefers using lesbian characters over gay men.

Last night I watched a bizarre (but fascinating) documentary ‘For The Bible Tells Me So’, which documents the ways in which conservative Christians have exploited religious teachings and scriptures to deny LGBTQ+ rights. Without spoiling too much, one factor which stood out like a sore thumb was the fact that the parents (of gay children) being interviewed all expressed fears of having a “faggot son” (they said those exact words), even if the story ended up focusing around their lesbian daughter. There was a continual theme of obsessing over the fear of a gay son. As we all know, homophobic beliefs all stem from religion, and their target is 9 times out of 10 going to be gay men.
Why?! Well, as the husbands in these documentaries (and in most religious and/or homophobic households) have the final say on what goes, men generally have more discomfort towards gay men than lesbians. It all stems from a fear that gay men will try to have sex with them (don’t flatter yourself) or influence their sons’ ‘sexual behaviour’. It probably also relates to the fact that mentions of sexuality in the Bible only relate to men sleeping with other men. Lesbianism became publicly demonised during the Victorian era.
I have no idea why gay men seem to receive more homophobic abuse (I know, that is a sweeping statement), and this is particularly evident in the homophobic slurs used – I can name only a few related to lesbians, but gay insults based on gay men are endless. There is a fear and disgust surrounding gay sex, whereas lesbians are often used as part of the male sexual fantasy. Funnily enough, I always wonder whether these religious homophobes get off on girl-on-girl fantasies but heaven forbid two men together! Gross!

[Before I get into the advertising part of this blog, I want to say that I am by no means denying or deflecting homophobia against lesbians, nor am I insinuating that gay or queer women receive less discrimination than gay or queer men. These are merely my observations about the representation of gay men in advertising].

So what the hell does this have to do with advertising? I believe it all stems from the same place – whilst companies, agencies and brands are largely trying to be inclusive by introducing LGBT narratives, the avoidance of male couples is remarkably salient in advertising.
In the US (certain states, of course, we couldn’t have two guys in love being aired in Texas now could we) the depiction of a range of LGBT couples has been, overall, fantastic in comparison to what it was like as recently as 5 years ago. This is particularly amazing for gay men who seem to have an equal platform in terms of narrative to lesbian couples or female same-sex families. Certain states in the US are notorious for being openly pro-LGBT and have no qualms when it comes to presenting gay men in their commercials. A lovely example of this is cosmetics company Lush who recently launched a Valentines Day campaign for 2017 featuring non-heteronormative couples in their campaign. Wonderful! A gay couple are featured as a header on the US website, alongside other gay and lesbian and gender-nonconforming couples in the campaign:

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They even released a very sweet statement for the campaign:

At Lush we believe that love transcends gender. We set out to do one thing when creating our Valentine’s Day visuals, we wanted to capture love between two people and we believe that’s what we have done here. The fact that our loyal and loving fans are starting their own conversations using our visuals and #loveislove absolutely warms our hearts.

But, (and this is a big but), why on earth didn’t this transcend to the UK website for Valentines Day?! There is no mention of the LGBT campaign – no photos, no #loveislove hashtags, just a crappy photo of a heart-shaped bathbomb. This kind of contradiction and blatant picking-and-choosing of where to present certain messages makes the campaign and the company come off as inauthentic, consequently using the gay community to publicise a Valentine’s Day sale. Love is a universal experience, so why can’t Lush’s campaign be? My theory is that British ad men and women are too afraid to upset anyone. We are so apologetic and fearful of offending in the UK that it’s affecting how we stand up for what we believe in.
To reiterate, this seems to be a bizarre UK problem – as a country where gay marriage finally opened its doors to lots of British gay couples and proudly abolished Section 28, I struggle to accept that the advertising industry has moved forward in this way too. The only time I ever seem to see gay couples represented correctly in advertising is when Pride in London is being advertised!
Another very sweet Valentine’s Day campaign featuring a man proposing to his boyfriend by Hallmark has done a fantastic job at normalising gay love in a campaign with lots of other couples celebrating international the day of love:

There’s no hashtags about equality, no clickbait, no hint towards inclusivity, just a mix of normal people showing us what love means to them. Of course this was a campaign in the US! This is the third consecutive year that Hallmark features a gay or lesbian couple in their Valentine’s day ad. I’ve never seen any of those campaigns here, despite Hallmark being a retailer in the UK.

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Ok, for a moment I will stop listing the negatives, and actually praise a British brand who has defied the norms when it comes to gay male affection in marketing – Lloyds! It’s been noted that brands are failing to represent LGBT+ people in mainstream marketing campaigns, but Lloyds Bank have been praised for advancing LGBT diversity both internally and through its brand communications. Perhaps Lloyds being no.2 in Stonewall’s Top 100 LGBT Employers 2016 rankings influenced the fantastic campaign for ‘He Said Yes’, a same-sex proposal featuring two men.

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Here’s what Joey Hambidge (client account manager at Stonewall) had to say about the importance of LGBT representation in marketing:

While campaigns around Pride season are encouraging and to be applauded, consistent year-round communication with the LGBT community and featuring LGBT people within mainstream campaigns sends a strong message of inclusion and support.
Lloyds Bank springs to mind due to its recent mainstream commercial featuring a male same-sex couple’s proposal. Many young people entering the industry have grown up with an inclusive mentality. Their social circles can be mixed and varied so they are looking for companies that reflect these values. So even if someone may not identify as being LGBT themselves, finding an LGBT-inclusive employer is often important to them.

Lloyds Bank could have so easily used women in the ‘For Your Next Step’ ad, but I absolutely believe they did the right thing by using two men. Not only were they featured in the ad below, they have also been used on huge underground billboards and posters:

Lloyds Bank have actually featured same-sex couples in its advertising since 2010, and Marketing Week have written exactly why this is so important in an article here. I feel honoured to have worked with such an inclusive brand during my time at adam&eveDDB.

Unfortunately, Lloyds Bank are the exception in the UK. Whilst doing my research for this blog post I came across one of my favourite websites, Pink News, which had a news section on gay ads – hoorah! Lots of content to prove me wrong! Not quite…….. as wonderful as they all are, they’re all American. Check out the list here.
There has been cataclysmic shift in the portrayal of homosexuality in advertising, particularly when it comes to the likes of fashion brands such as Dolce & Gabbana producing homoerotic ads for years. This is an improvement to be noted – we’re hardly seeing any half naked, muscle bound and oiled up Adonis, instead we’re seeing gay men being portrayed in a mundane, family-orientated way, like the ads mentioned above. This still isn’t good enough – all of these campaigns (including Lynx’s ad featuring a dancing man in heels; Lynx’s “kiss the hottest girl… or the hottest guy” adTylenol’s #HowWeFamily campaign, to name a few) are American and Australian. They aren’t broadcasted on British TV, even if though sell the exact same products or services here.

Whilst we should always praise and encourage the portrayal of lesbians in advertising, as the sexualisation and fetishism of lesbians is still rife in the media, it’s difficult to ignore the blatant use of two women being more comfortable viewing than two men.
Match.com really had the chance to represent the LGBT+ community in a normal way like a lot of the ads above have done. Lots of dating apps and websites are now trying to convey a message of inclusivity – that their services are not just for straight people. As part of their campaign, Match.com decided to dedicate one spot to two girlfriends who supposedly found love through the website. I cannot help rolling my eyes and cringing every time I see the following ad on TV:

‘Messy Girl’ actually was no.3 on the top 10 complained about UK ads, because of kissing women (896 complaints). Despite the ridiculous amount of homophobic complaints, I do not respect Match.com for this campaign, and I cannot support their efforts. I find the entire narrative unnecessary – the “messy” story did not need to include lesbians undressing (with lacy lingerie on underneath… come on, really?!) where all the other spots for the same campaign are not sexualised, and instead portray the innocent, adorable and quirky aspects of dating and falling in love.
The entire ad screams male gaze, and Match have clearly spent no time researching into what it means to the LGBT community to be represented in advertising. ‘Messy Girl’? more like Messy Idea! Who wrote this sh*t?

Sainsbury’s 2016 Christmas ad saw an enormous amount of praise not just from creatives surrounding the concept and execution, but also from families in the UK – particularly same sex parents who were thrilled to see female same-sex parents along-side mixed-race families and a single dad:

Whilst successfully reflecting modern British families, I can’t help believing that two women were favoured over two men. Even though they are animated characters, lesbian women are predominantly more accepted over gay men because society still does not feel comfortable with the idea of gay male sex. You might be thinking “calm down, how on earth did you go from innocent animated characters to gay sex?” well, that’s how homophobes’ minds work – they believe the representation of same-sex parenting is damaging and has a gay-agenda. So, ASA (or whatever standards authority board) receive complaints, ads get taken down, and clients/agencies steer clear of pro-LGBT concepts for fear of offending. I can’t tell you why people think this way, but I can tell you it is still a very big and very ridiculous problem. It’s particularly concerning that very few UK brands choose to represent male couples, particularly affectionate or intimate gay couples.
I think the current discrimination epidemic seen during the US election speaks volumes in terms of how far we have to go regarding LGBT rights. From what I have seen on social media, people have (up until the election) remained naive and unaware of how discriminatory certain groups of people can be, and how manipulative they can be when working in numbers. A lot of people in this world genuinely believe gay sex is demonic, and that those showing it on TV are pushing an ‘agenda’ to turn their kids gay. These same people compare gay men (never lesbians) to pedophiles. If it wasn’t so tragic, I’d laugh.

I want to end this blog post on a positive note – the note being Thomas Cook – a UK company who have subtly flown the flag for the LGBT community in this lovely ad called ‘You Want We Do’:

Again, no hidden messages; no hashtags; no trends; no exploitation, just a bunch of different people all wanting a great holiday with the ones they love.
Jamie Queen, marketing director for Thomas Cook Group told Marketing Week:

I think marketers can always do more to represent the needs of the consumer and that’s what we’ve tried to do with the gay kiss. It comes down to the needs of our customers and addressing a modern population.

Aside from the wonderful representation of gay partners (header image) and gay dads (below), the ad itself is actually wonderfully art directed and shot.

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To conclude, what I’d like to say to creatives is, don’t be like Match.com – be like Thomas Cook – be revolutionary, be bold, be authentic. Feature gay love, feature men playing tonsil tennis, and do it with conviction. Don’t worry about the complaints, the Bible bashers and the ratings. You are the voice, and we are living in a time where your compassionate creativity is needed more than ever.

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Hollywood is Deeply Failing Those with Mental Health

A few weeks ago I was sitting at home, watching ads in the break of whatever TV show was on at the time. I found myself both saddened, cringing and wanting to change the channel – the ‘Split’ movie trailer was being aired. As someone who isn’t a fan of horror films, I’d usually never pay attention to trailers that do not interest me, however it was impossible to ignore the clear demonisation and offensive narrative created by M. Night Shyamalan.

From start to finish, James McAvoy provides a performance (an outstanding one, however) that is detrimental to those suffering from mental health, and more specifically dissociative identity disorder (DID). The character, Kevin, has obtained DID from childhood trauma, which is both a Hollywood classic and highly inaccurate assumption of the causes of DID. Most importantly is the overt and presumptive link between mental health and violence, stringed by Hitchcock in the 1960s (e.g. ‘Psycho’) but replicated in hundreds of movie plots, such as Rear Window, Betty Blue,High Tension, Fight Club, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, The Shining, Silence of the Lambs… the list goes on!
Why should we care about the plots in horror films? Isn’t it all clearly an over-dramatic, scripted fantasy that has no attribution to real life? Well, thousands have already signed a petition to boycott Split because “at a time when so much attention is being paid to mental illness and gender identity, we’ve reduced both conversations to a horror movie trope.” I couldn’t agree more! The film and TV industry has progressed enormously in the representation of gender, sexuality and race (although there is a very long way to go, but that’s a whole other story), but has seriously failed those with mental health problems. Despite organisations and campaigns for mental health being heard more and more in the 21st century, Hollywood has remained obsessed with narratives including schizophrenics who murder, rape and torture random victims.

Aside from the representation of DID in ‘Split’, the most common mental health condition used in horror films is schizophrenia, and characters with mental health are being depicted as more demonic and crueler than at any time in movie history, according to a report for mental health charity Time to Change.

Psychiatrist and film expert Dr Peter Byrne says:

This is omnipresent in cinema misrepresentations – the psycho killer is immortal and sadistic, motivated by madness – in almost all psychosis films, that character will kill.

The report highlights something really important – that the main source of information about mental health is from films. That is scary and highly damaging. Unfortunately, the mass media shapes people’s ideas about mental illness, and whilst British soaps contribute a lot of their story lines to mental health, the horror film directors and producers are yet to follow suit.
Little discussion of sympathy towards mental health is depicted in Hollywood horror, apart from the exception ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. In 1975, a time of little understanding or discussion of mental health, a film sympathetic to the mentally ill managed to win all five of the Academy’s top awards. Hollywood (well, some of it) took note: compassion can pay, and gave us films depicting empathy towards mental health like A Beautiful Mind, Shine, Rain Man, Adam, The Aviator, The Black Balloon, Séraphine, Keane, Away from Her and Girl, Interrupted. That being said, take those examples with a pinch of salt, as the characters were not accurately or correctly represented, but still contained sympathy rather than demonisation, which is really important.

One of my favourite films, ‘Shutter Island’, has received a mixed response from those concerned about mental health. Set in the 1950s, when psychiatry involved barbaric practices like lobotomy, electric shock and incarceration (scenes I found incredibly upsetting to watch), the film is based on a best-selling novel by Dennis Lehane published in 2003. Scorsese was out to create high drama and to maximise emotional impact – but how could he do this without becoming yet another director taking advantage of mental health? Before filming, Scorsese’s intense research included appointing his own psychiatrist, Professor James Gilligan, who specialised in violent psychosis. The character Dr Cawley is actually based on Dr Gilligan, who in fact was the director of a Massachusetts prison hospital for the criminally insane (much like the one depicted in the film) in the 1970s. Dr Gilligan wanted to protect the image of psychosocial treatments, and was pleased by the historical accuracy in ‘Shutter Island’, but not so pleased with the script itself. Dr Cawley’s treatment of Teddy Daniels was highly inaccurate, as his attempts to shock Teddy out of his delusion were done by enabling him to act it out. This would never happen. Despite the highly empathic narrative and the fantastic performance by DiCaprio, Teddy is still represented as a murdering maniac. However, Dr Gilligan believes that the plot is:

a kind of metaphor for psychosocial methods of treatment as opposed to damaging the brain.

So, ‘Shutter Island’ was successful at portraying the inhumane practices in mental health hospitals, but in the end, movies are drawn to madness because it’s scary. Horror fans eat that up.

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Hollywood needs to focus less on the fear-factor and presumption of traumatic etiology in mental health, the misrepresentation of psychologists themselves, and more on the authentic experiences those with bipolar disorder, DID, schizophrenia etc. experience. Hollywood has a responsibility to steer away from harmful stigmas about mental illness.

Here’s a list of films that have been praised for avoiding the sensationalism of mental health narratives:

Silver Linings Playbook
Clean, Shaven
The Hours
A Beautiful Mind
Christine

Have a watch! And next time you want to spend your hard earned money on a horror flick, think about what kind of industry you are supporting. Mental health is so common, you will undoubtedly have a friend or family member who suffers and/or has been diagnosed. By supporting films like ‘Split’, you are halting the progression of destigmatising mental health, and that deeply effects people like me.

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