Tag Archives: protest

Type With Pride

Gilbert Baker was the creator of the iconic Rainbow Flag (1978) and an LGBTQ activist and artist. On 31st March 2017 Baker passed away, leaving a legacy of one of the most iconic and globally recognisable flags.

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To honour him, NewFest and NYC Pride collaborated with ad agency Ogilvy & Mather and typeface creator Fontself to create an open-source font called “Gilbert”.

The Gilbert font was originally designed for striking headlines and statements that could live on banners for rallies and protests and it is now currently being built out into a whole family of weights and styles. The font is available in two versions, a standard vector font and a colour font (in OpenType-SVG format) currently usable in Photoshop CC 2017 only. Both are early beta previews that you can download below for free, and you can follow @TypeWithPride on Instagram and on our development blog for news about new font weights, styles and creative contests.

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You can see more examples of the font on posters here. Whilst I love the sentiment, and the context behind the idea, I can’t say I love the font itself. Personally, I think it works best as either singular letters or very short phrases/words (which is perfect for ‘LGBTQ’). However, with long quotes such as the one on my header image above, it just doesn’t work for me. What do you think of the font?

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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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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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Protest for Syria: An Accidental Art Installation

Yesterday at the Russian Embassy in London a group of 25 activists from human rights organisations Syria Solidarity UK and the Syria Campaign created a peaceful protest and outdoor art installation. Whilst the protest wasn’t supposed to be a work of art, and purely for a demonstration, it’s hard to ignore the creative outcome with the use of mannequin limbs. The protesters collected and displayed 800+ mannequin arms and legs near the front gates of the embassy representing the massacre of Syrians in Aleppo. I think this should be bought by a gallery, and give the money to the organisations!

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Bissan Fakih, deputy campaign director of the Syria Campaign said:

We have the limbs ‘flowing out’ of the embassy. We want [Russia] to stop their war crimes in Syria. We want them to stop bombing children. Our message is very clear to the Russian government. The world is watching.

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The protest represents the tragic events of Moscow committing untold atrocities in Syria’s largest city. Two activists even chained themselves to the embassy gates. Boris Johnson previously encouraged people to protest earlier on in October due to innocent children being killed, and doctors being bombed for trying to help civilians.

Through the medium of an unintentional art installation, the message serves as a poignant reminder of the abuse endured by Syrians, and a plea to politicians.

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The only time I will ever use the term ‘real woman’

It’s Monday morning, and as I lean towards wanting my second coffee of the morning, I come across an article about Wonder Woman as a United Nations ambassador, and start to question whether I had enough sleep last night. I didn’t read this incorrectly, the United Nations have actually elected a fictional superhero as the honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls.

My face hurts from glowering at my screen, along with the 2000+ petitioners against electing a cartoon rather than a real-life woman. Not only am I baffled that people thought a character from a comic could represent all women globally, I am also stunned that women are supporting (with the hashtag #WithWonderWoman – is this a joke?) a character who is so clearly the creation of a heteronormative, misogynistic view of the female body. I’m not going to write about Wonder Woman’s (aka Princess Diana of Thermyscira) body shape and the unrealistic expectations for women and girls, because I find the whole ‘real women’ body shaming thing very disturbing and unhealthy for society. Yes it’s rare, but there are women out there with natural size 6 waists, E-cup bras and bubble-butt, just like Wonder Woman. But that’s not the point here…

The choice to anoint Wonder Woman occurred on her 75th birthday at the launch of a social media campaign to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality. As fabulous, sexy and empowered as Wonder Woman looks, she was created by two men – Harry George Peter and William Moulton Marston – who have clearly overly-sexualised Wonder Woman, giving her a sultry pin-up look. Marston claimed to be a women’s rights advocate who was inspired by the leaders of the suffragist movement.

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UN official Maher Nasser says:

The focus [of the UN] was on her feminist background, being the first female superhero in a world of male superheroes and that basically she always fought for fairness, justice and peace.

Greg Rucka worked on Wonder Woman for DC Comics throughout the 2000s, and whilst he recently confirmed that Wonder Woman is queer (which is fantastic!), it is impossible to ignore her sexualised body and costume. Fans claim that Wonder Woman is from a feminist utopia, but she looks like a sex doll to me. There’s nothing wrong with showing off your body – I am all about showing-off what your mama gave you – but we cannot claim that this fictional character wasn’t created for the male gaze. She clearly was. Coincidentally, DC Comics is developing a new Wonder Woman comic that will be coming to a cinema screen near you in 2017………

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The most disturbing part about this bizarre idea from the UN is that they somehow were unable to find a REAL woman to become ambassador. Of course, protests ensued inside the Ecosoc chamber where the official ceremony took place. An anonymous protester said:

For something that is this important, you need a woman or a man who can speak, somebody who can travel, somebody who can champion these rights, somebody who is able to have an opinion, somebody that can be interviewed, somebody that can stand up in front of 192 member states and say this is what we would like you to do.

The ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls should be a real-life, living and breathing woman who is culturally encompassing (Wonder Woman is white, of course…) and able to raise concerns for women, globally. Perhaps that is exactly the reason why a fictional woman has been honored. Whilst to some women this might seem like a fun campaign in the right direction for young girls, to me it sounds like yet another technique to shut women up and not allow them to have any opinions. Wonder Woman isn’t real, so she can’t talk, she can’t question and she can’t uncover the truth.

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