Tag Archives: UK

CALM: Project 84

CALM (The Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, and a charity that has a big place in my heart. I am a ig supporter of the charity and always enjoy seeing what campaigns they produce to lift the lid on a subject that is unnecessarily, and dangerously taboo. Male suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK, and ad agency adam&eveDBB collaborated with CALM to raise awareness of this statistic.

Project 84 is a stunt campaign that placed 84 mannequins on the ledges of London’s ITV Southbank buildings to represent 84 real men who committed suicide. The number originates from the statistic that every two hours, a man takes his own life, making about 84 deaths per week. Sculptor Mark Jenkins, created this work of art alongside friends and families of those who have committed suicide:

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This campaign is about both raising awareness and showing that there is no shame in men talking about their mental health. I love this kind of work, and I think it has been executed perfectly. More importantly, it’s had a hell of a lot of people talking about this male epidemic, with users on social media tweeting images of the sculpture and the hashtag #Project84.

This is what design and advertising is all about.

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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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LGBT Refugees: Abuse Uncovered in Asylum Centres

Stonewall UK and UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) have uncovered some shocking truths from refugees fleeing to the UK in a report called No Safe Refugee . A large majority of asylum seekers in the UK are those from the LGBT community who face violence, abuse, rape, torture and even death in their countries. This is something that has made me so proud to be British, because despite a small amount of gay-bashers in the UK, as a whole we are very inclusive and accepting of sexual orientation and gender. However, I seem to have been under the illusion that the UK is a safe place for those who are being persecuted for their sexuality or gender identity. Researchers carried out interviews with 22 LGBT asylum seekers, who’ve been held in UK detention centres, asking about their experiences with staff and other asylum seekers, their physical and emotional well-being in detention, and access to legal and health services.

We will always meet someone or hear of someone who is a bigot – someone who makes you feel uncomfortable because of their backwards views – but I had no idea that the centres (which are made specifically for those who are desperate for a safe place) would contain these stupid, uneducated people too. The report uncovered frequent incidents of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, and some violent incidents. Also, some asylum seekers were denied vital medication for HIV, and transgender detainees were banned from taking hormones.

Vani, a transgender asylum seeker from India said:

They didn’t provide me with any kind of medicine. I have to take regular cycle of hormones. I normally get hormonal implants. Then in detention they told me I can’t have any kind of hormones. If I don’t have the hormones I get hot flushes and all those hormonal imbalance things. I get like blisters, get depressed, get anxiety and all sorts of stuff.

How does this happen? The UK is so lucky to have a fantastic free healthcare service alongside a ‘good’ (I say that with hesitation, as I know there are a lot of concerns from trans* people when it comes to their treatment under the NHS) understanding of medical services and advice for LGBT patients.

Not only were vital medications confiscated from the refugees, others told of shocking instances of homophobia at every level of the system – from guards, other detainees, interpreters and even legal representatives.

Sathi, from Sri Lanka said:

He asked me if I am speaking with my parents. I said no because they are not happy with me because of my sexuality. He then told me that ‘if you are not happy with your parents then God isn’t going to be happy with you. So make your parents happy and go back’. It means leave my sexuality and just make them happy.

Why is this important? Why should we care about what happens in other countries – shouldn’t we focus on our own? Well, I’m proud to live in such a multicultural and diverse society, and when I saw a group of LGBT asylum seekers strut down the street at the Pride Parade this year, I felt incredibly overwhelmed with emotion because I knew that they had to give up their families and lives to live authentically in this wonderful city. I care because I’m privileged – I’m a white, middle-class woman from London who has never suffered any discrimination or violence (other than for simply being a woman, of course), so if I can’t take advantage of how lucky I am by trying to help others who aren’t as lucky, what’s the point of my existence? It takes some serious guts to start an entirely new life in a different country, but most refugees have no other choice. Often, death is the only solution if they stay in their homeland, but Brianna from Jamaica managed to escape, and told the reporters that back home:

I have been shot, I have been raped, I have been beaten. I just got fed up because Jamaica is a very homophobic place. They don’t tolerate LGBT people. You have to live a life of lies.

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I’m hoping this public report allows further investigations from the Home Office as it is simply not acceptable that asylum seekers are not protected by the detention centre staff. Many say they felt they have to hide their sexuality to avoid abuse, which is the exact reason they fled in the first place! The UK has one of the largest detention estates in Europe, where it detains more migrants and asylum seekers than most other countries, which is so fantastic… but this isn’t the first time there have been concerns about the welfare of refugees. In July 2015, the High Court found that the detention process was “systematically unfair and unlawful”. Umm… So why is it still happening?!

A Ugandan asylum seeker said :

It felt like I was betrayed because if somebody seeks asylum, they’re just trying to get some protection, but then you’re detaining them. It’s like you’re putting them in prison for having come to you for help. It didn’t make sense to me.

Seeking asylum is a right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is not a crime, and those looking for help should not be treated like criminals. We should be accepting those who are trying to live authentically, but unfortunately the reports clearly show that UK detention centres offer little respite.

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Brexit and the consequences Human Rights face

When Brexit was first announced this year, my initial concerns consisted of what will happen regarding EU laws with human rights and animal rights. I’ve already written a blog post on animal rights – mainly the recent EU animal testing policies, so it’s time for human rights to take to the stage.

Current EU law protects rights affecting millions of people in the UK, for example:

  • employment rights
  • economic and social rights
  • equality and anti-discrimination protection in the UK (from European Court of Justice)
  • protection of gender, disability, age, religion, nationality, sexual orientation

Brexit could have a huge impact on these human rights protections, and would be the first time that a significant legal protection of rights was removed from UK citizens. What concerns me most is that there is a risk that the UK government could weaken the anti-discrimination and employment rights protection in UK law. These laws were born from the EU legislation (the rights set out in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights), and although many EU laws would remain, if the UK segregates itself completely from the EU (and consequently from jurisdiction of the EU Court of Justice) the government would be able to adopt laws that weaken those human rights protections.

Scary, right? I’m British, but was born in Belgium (and moved back to London at 8 months old), so if I had stayed and obtained a Belgian passport, but moved back to London in my teens, for example, I could be in fear of my employment and human rights… Even though my family are of British heritage. This poses a very scary situation for those who have moved to the UK without British heritage, which although I can mildly relate to, cannot ever totally contemplate.

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Of course, when it came to vote, I voted remain! I knew this would happen – I knew the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (which is so fantastic and fundamental for our nation) would come under strain if we left. Another scenario I could have predicted with a crystal ball was this rise in xenophobia – however, I had no idea it would be this bad. The increase in hate crimes since Brexit is absolutely terrifying! There was a 60% increase in hate crimes after the referendum compared to the year before (from the National Council of Police Chiefs), including reports of assaults and arson attacks towards EU citizens.

Since “What is Brexit” and “What is Britain” were popular Google searches during the referendum, it doesn’t surprise me that people are interpreting Theresa May’s words as an excuse to attack EU citizens, mainly those of non-British heritage. Even the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) recommended that politicians choose their language and policy proposals carefully when it comes to political speeches, suggesting that

…public officials not only refrain from such [hate] speech but also formally reject hate speech and condemn the hateful ideas expressed so as to promote a culture of tolerance and respect.

When I heard that the government wants to require schools to record the country of birth and nationality of children, I thought this was a joke – a parody of racists – it wasn’t. It was also suggested that employers list their foreign workers and restricted entry to foreign students… these policy statements are very risky as they are conveying a message that the referendum result was a vote to rid the country of “foreigners”. I do believe that’s why the majority of Brexiters voted leave. And that’s scary because essentially, and genetically, I’m pretty sure none of us are actually British through-and-through…

The government now must make it clear what will affect EU citizens and their families as leaving the Council of Europe would significantly weaken human rights protection in the UK. It could weaken the court system in ways that would harm human rights protection across the Council of Europe region. That is scary. Something that makes me very proud to be British (and that never happens – for obvious reasons regarding association of Brexiters) is the amount of asylum seekers who start new lives here, such as members of the LGBT community who fear violence and even death in their country due to laws and a lack of human rights. Not just that, but most people I know have parents who fled their country to start a better life in the UK and have created a happy, successful, thriving life and home here. I don’t think that makes anyone less “British” – anyway, who are these racists and bigots to define “Britishness”?! We should all be forced to have DNA tests on “Who Do You Think You Are?” to shut everyone up (hey, I have French heritage!)

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End Marmite Neglect – Marmite Advert 2013

I loved Marmite’s old Love/Hate adverts (particularly a certain ‘controversial’ one), and this is a great new one, still using the same Love/Hate USP.

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This Is What Winning Looks Like

A friend recommended this, and I’m glad I watched it! What an awful, disturbing place.

“I guess money talks…”

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A Landmark for equality in Britain

“Today is an important day. I am a strong believer in marriage. It helps people commit to each other and I think it is right that gay people should be able to get married too,”

“This is, yes, about equality. But it is also about making our society stronger. I know there are strong views on both side of the argument – I accept that. But I think this is an important step forward for our country.” – David Cameron

I could not be happier! What wonderful news! Despite not blogging for a while, I HAD to write about this. (Check out the bill details here)

Maria Miller new position worried me that we would not see this new law for a very long time, but I am so chuffed she sees a strong difference between marriage and civil ceremonies.

MPs voted 400 to 175 in supporting the government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – a majority of 225 votes – following an afternoon of heated debate in the House of Commons.

It brings great warmth to my heart that people in this country are able to MARRY those they love, whether it be religious or non-religious ceremonies, because love is love, and gender or sex does not define that. It seems that the UK has taken a leaf out of the USA’s book! Wonderful.

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Three Little Pigs – Advert for The Guardian

Agency: BBH, London
Production Company: Rattling Stick, London
Country: United Kingdom
Lions Won:
      

This advert for the Guardian’s open journalism, screened for the first time on 29 February 2012, imagines how we might cover the story of the three little pigs in print and online. Follow the story from the paper’s front page headline, through a social media discussion and finally to an unexpected conclusion.

Another amazing advert. Genius advert. This is the kind of work I’d love to produce in my future career, one that embodies the social media world we now live in. People complain about the use of computers and people on the internet, but we live in a new world now, where anything is so easily accessible and where you can efficiently express your opinion. Sure, there are major disadvantages to how available data on the internet is these days, but we’re moving forward into a new world of technology, creating new jobs, new products, new health benefits, new hobbies etc. … the list goes on!

Despite my slight hatred towards a lot of aspects of the media, the way it has grown does fascinate me. My own addiction to social networks proves that new generations are evolving to be almost reliable on social networks and the internet in general (whether we like to admit it or not). Now, we can say absolutely anything we want, anywhere on the internet.

The story line using the classic Three Little Pigs is fantastic – adding a dark, deep side to the children’s tale whilst incorporating modern phenomenons. The attention to detail throughout is outstanding, too.

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