Tag Archives: relationships

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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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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Google: Year in Search 2016

I’m not crying, you are…

Wow, 2016 has been the worst year for humanity during my lifetime. I’ve cried more tears over the destruction of lives (emotionally and physically) than I have over my own personal challenges this year.

2016 was the first time in my life that I questioned whether I really wanted children (this is coming from someone who’s wanted nothing but that since I can remember) – whether I wanted to ever create a human being and bring them into a world where we are all still so divided. Not just a handful of us, like I thought it was – there are a lot of people out there who believe that certain groups of people are better than others. Thousands and thousands of them.
I’ve lived my life with the reassurance that bigoted people are idiots who live in a tiny bubble with a small group of other morons, mainly due to my educational background family and friends. The revelation that we actually haven’t progressed as a society as much as I assumed we had has left my heart broken and my hope for humanity shattered into a million tiny pieces.

It’s draining and it’s tough voicing my opinion and trying to make a difference when people don’t truly care. Something I’ve also learnt over the last few years is that there’s a huge difference between ‘caring’ and ‘doing’ – we can’t possibly defeat the likes of homophobes and racists by saying “I have a black friend”, “I went to gay pride” – you have to fight. You have to stand up and say “NO!” – you have to correct people and educate people. We may be fast approaching 2017, but sadly we’ve not actually made much progress…
I don’t know what it will take to shake people into realising that sharing a Facebook post won’t stop a suicide from homophobic bullying or a young black man being shot. What I know is that if you’re reading this, you have access to 2 of the most powerful things right now: your voice and the internet. USE THEM!

“Love is out there. Search on”

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Anomaly London: 12 Days of Christmas

A Tale of Avian Misery from Anomaly London has seriously set the bar high when it comes to agency Christmas cards! Directed by Ben White and Craig Ainsley, written by Craig Ainsley, and wonderfully narrated by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, this hilarious modern-day take on the Christmas song ’12 Days of Christmas’ is so bizarrely ridiculous, but so perfect.

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IKEA: Products Renamed After Google Searches

The campaign ‘IKEA Retail Therapy’ was created by Swedish agency Åkestam Holst who based the marketing idea on research into commonly searched terms on Google. The search terms range from sad (divorce and troubled relationships) to hilarious (“my family doesn’t respect me” aka a Queen costume) to every day problems. However, whilst some are very witty (see below), some product names seem to have no relevance to the product ‘solution’ itself…

IKEA is where life happens. So, we simply renamed IKEA’s products as common Google searches about relationship problems in Sweden. Got a snoring husband? A family who doesn’t respect you? A never ending gaming son? IKEA can come to the rescue. Or at least put a smile on your face while you keep googling for an answer.

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Tinder: Introducing More Genders

Everyone is welcome on Tinder.
Introducing more genders on Tinder, an update allowing users to express their gender identity. Tinder asked transgender and GNC (Gender Non-Conforming) activists to share their dating experiences, on and off the app, to help shape the creation of this update.
Be vulnerable. Be open. Be honest.

I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of dating apps – whilst I know lots of people who’ve started successful relationships and friendships by meeting through dating apps, the dating culture of the 21st century appears, to me, seems to be incredibly shallow and sexualised. Whilst the app has been a great way to meet your match, it has also become a haven of hate, abuse and even led to real-life attacks (e.g. the viral gay-bashing videos in Russia). However, I’m impressed with Tinder’s recent update – they have genuinely listened to their consumers (past and present) and have added loads of options for gender non-conforming app users. Whilst they previously had just ‘male’ and ‘female’, CEO Sean Rad realised that gender has a spectrum far greater than just two socially constructed categories.

Sean Rad (CEO of Tinder) said:

About six months ago, we really realised there was a big issue with harassment toward transgender people. Our immediate reaction was this is unacceptable we’re going to squash this. As we went on this journey, we started peeling back the orange and realised it was a complex issue.

After the uproar regarding users reporting (and therefore banning) trans* Tinder users on the app, Rad decided to seek help from a community of influencers, activists and people from organisations like GLAAD to make the app more inclusive and reflective of society today.

I approve!

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A message to Trump supporters, from Ben & Jerry’s: One Sweet World

Here at Ben & Jerry’s, we’re concerned that the dominant message we see in society today is one of division. Whether it’s televised political debates or newspaper headlines, it’s sometimes easy to think the world is becoming increasingly divided. So, we’ve been thinking about how we can amplify a message of unity & love using the thing we know best… ice cream! Say hello to East Coneville!

Agency Nice and Serious created this heartwarming campaign for Ben & Jerry’s Europe after the US election results left the world in tears. The Leader Lemon’s leaf ‘hair’ reminds me of a certain someone’s iconic hairstyle…

Ben & Jerry’s is a brand that has always proudly maintained liberal values, and whilst most brands stay away from expressing political views, they have never been afraid to stand up for what’s right – in 2009, they celebrated the legalisation of gay marriage in Vermont by releasing ‘Hubby Hubby’, a supportive rename of its ‘Chubby Hubby’ ice cream.

The video contains a tone of hidden messages relating to the division and prejudice Trump’s campaign has created, such as “Zest is Best” and “Go Home!”. The dejected cherry is left furious (like millions of us all over the world) and intimidated, but is eventually welcomed by a kind Lemon, offering to share music followed by fake tweets such as “Coneville welcomes all flavours! #BetterTogether” (N.B. the LGBT flags!)

Anyone notice the name of the park ‘Rosa Park’? I’m not crying, you are.

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Fossil Smartwatch: Just Husbands

Almost this time last year The Mystery Hour released a video hilariously portraying the relatable story of men whose existence consists of both taking photos of, and waiting patiently to take photos of their wives:

The social satire didn’t stop there – a year later agency 360i created ‘Just Husbands‘ featuring the stars of ‘Instagram Husbands‘ – an ad for Fossil’s new smartwatch. The hubbies are no longer their wives’ social media photographers, all thanks to a special button on the Fossil Q smartwatch, allowing the wives to take their own photos, handsfree:

Jill Elliott, Fossil’s CCO said:

While brainstorming ways to get audiences excited about our new Fossil Q Hybrid Smartwatches (which feature an unexpected selfie button) we couldn’t help but immediately think about the hilariously clever ‘Instagram Husband’ parody videos.

As a camera/selfie/instagram addict, I found the original very relatable! ‘Just Husbands‘ is just as funny, and a very clever marketing ploy. Whilst researching this campaign, I certainly noticed the high standard Fossil has when it comes to social media content and their brand image. They sure know what they’re doing!

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