Starbucks Tells a Beautiful Trans Story in This Award-Winning U.K. Ad

Iris spot picks up Channel 4 diversity prize

Each year, Channel 4 in the U.K. gives out its Diversity in Advertising Award, designed to create positive change around representation of diverse groups in advertising. The winning work gets £1 million worth of airtime, as well as all the other publicity around the winner announcement. 

This week, Channel 4 selected its new winner—the lovely Starbucks spot below, created by Iris. Check it out before reading further:

Starbucks | Every name's a story

This is the fourth year of Channel 4's Diversity in Advertising Award. This year's theme challenged the lack of representation and stereotyping of the LGBT+ community in advertising. It was informed by a study that revealed just 0.3% of TV adverts in the U.K. feature a transgender person, despite the community making up at least 1 percent of the population. 

The spot, directed by Nicolas Jack Davies through Sweetshop, works so well because of the evocative storytelling and the way it integrates the brand seamlessly into the narrative. Beyond that, Starbucks is truly committed to the cause. The company has a long legacy of LGBT inclusion, and as part of the new campaign, it's committing to raising a minimum of £100,000 for the U.K. charity Mermaids, which supports gender-diverse children, young people and their families. 

The funds, to be raised through the sale of a limited-edition Mermaid Cookie, available at participating Starbucks stores, will go toward growing the Mermaids helpline service, allowing the charity to employ an additional helpline operator and extend its webchat service, which provides vital support to young trans people. Mermaids has seen over a 600 percent increase in demand for its helpline services in the past five years. 

The spot debuted on Channel 4 at 9:10 p.m. on Sunday night. 

"We believe brands should be brave, progressive and challenge the status quo, which is why we're so passionate about this campaign and the impact it's going to have," says Amy Bryson, managing partner at Iris. "It was critical for us to tell 'James's story' in an authentic way, so we spent time with people from the trans community who have experienced 'dead-naming' to make sure our work truly reflects their experiences. We hope the campaign will raise awareness about the importance of identity and acceptance in a time when hate crimes are on the rise." 

"We are thrilled to be part of such a fantastic and empowering campaign. We know, from 25 years of experience, how important it is to acknowledge people's true identities," says Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids. "Simply by acknowledging the existence of trans people in a television advert will help many people to feel less isolated and understand that they are valued."

"We are proud to have been recognized by the Channel 4 Diversity in Advertising award and we were moved to discover that individuals find our stores a safe space to try out their new names when transitioning," says Alex Rayner, general manager of retail at Starbucks U.K. "Since our beginnings, creating a warm and welcoming 'Third Place', where members of the community can gather, has been central to our mission. Writing a customer's name on a cup and calling it out is symbol of this warm welcome." 

The TV spot will be supported by digital OOH, social and in-store, with "Moving Portraits" celebrating real-life stories of how people chose their new names.

The RAF and creative agency Engine won last year's award for a campaign that challenged the portrayal of women in advertising. Previous competitions have focused on disability (won by Maltesers and AMV BBDO) and mental health (won by Lloyds Bank and adam&eveDBB).


ECD: Grant Hunter
ACD: Eli Vasiliou
Film creative: Eli Vasiliou (ACD Copy), Richard Peretti (Senior Creative Art)
Other creative: Giulia Frassine, Anny Heyden, Matt Gray
Account team: Amy Bryson (Managing Partner), Elisha Pearce (Business Director), Stephen Bennett (Account Director)
TV producer: Emily Hendrey
Agency Producer: Richard Blaxill
Planning: Raj Thambirajah (Planning Director), Florence Evans (Senior Planner)
Art production: Lu Howlett, Jody Brown, Paris Bennett
Editorial: Vino Vethavanam
POPS: Peter Maynard, Olivier Darriet-Fisher, Oliver Rushton, Syd Harvey
Design: Katrina Loosemore, Roger Norris, James Butt, Mollie Wade, Jess Leonard, Josh West, Nicole Vanner
Motion: Mike Tsang, Rebecca Ransom
Retouching: Kevin Relf, Cat Wood
Social: Beth Carroll, Tom Langan, Chaz Callingham-Woods
Production / Delivery: Jennifer Clark, Adam Brocklebank, Guy Cain
Artwork: Billy Thomas, Kyle Nagle, Tom Park, Murat Ince, Rebecca Koss
Business Affairs: Katie Singer
PR: Rachel Geraghty

Director: Nicolas Jack Davies
DOP: Ula Pontikos
Executive Producers: Justin Edmund-White and Morgan Whitlock
Producer: Hannah Cooper
Art Director: Scarlett Clifford
Offline: Tenthree
Post Production & Grade: Time Based Arts
Sound/Audio: Factory
Casting: Anna Stark
Music: Zebedee Budworth

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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