A Red Flag for Pride Month: We Need More Authentic Voices
Pride Month is here, that time of year in June when brands and agencies suddenly look in the mirror asking, "Have we been inclusive enough in our LGBTQIA+ advertising?"
Cue the rainbow capitalism within some brands, seemingly inclusive but mostly for profit, without actively supporting our community beyond the month of June. By releasing rainbow-themed merchandise, slapping rainbow logos on products or launching targeted marketing campaigns, brands capitalize on the increased visibility and marketability of LGBTQIA+ issues. This type of performative support fails to address the issues we face in society and in turn lacks the effort to help create long-term change of inclusion and acceptance.
As a gay woman, I can tell you that hollow gestures with lack of accountability and authenticity do not resonate with us as consumers. It can actually perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Disingenuous advertising fuels cynicism and erodes our trust, leaving members of our community skeptical of corporate motivation.
Ad agencies and brands, I encourage you to be loud, to be brave, to include us by hiring LGBTQIA+ creative voices to craft authentic stories and messaging. When you write and create from what you know, experiences one has had, there is an undeniable connection with the viewer.
My wife Jill and I starred in the Showtime docu series The Real L Word in 2010. Asked why we put our lives on television when I have a successful career behind the camera, I simply answer—visibility matters. Seeing relatable stories, especially stories that don't feel heavy handed for a 'themed month" are validating and empowering.
Humbled and appreciative, Jill and I have since been featured in many commercial campaigns over the years, with brands that show true commitment to LGBTQIA+ stories. Merrill Lynch worked with us about the importance of managing money and protecting your assets as an LGBTQIA+ family. Ergo Baby told our story about being two moms within my breast cancer journey. Campbell's Soup showed us as a couple, who happened to be two women, just enjoying soup and a salad on the couch, "real, real life" as they said, while watching our favorite television show. Expedia launched "Find Your Understanding" about our family, a testament to my late father-in-law and his journey of acceptance of his gay daughter and our marriage.
The campaign garnered global awards and accolades inclusive of Ted's Top Ten Ads of the year. It was shortlisted at Cannes, Clio, won at The One Show and Adweek's Tear Jerker, but most importantly, Expedia's campaign helped move the needle, propelling the Supreme Court's pending decision on DOMA and Proposition 8, as gay marriage was not yet legal in 2013.
This kind of true brand allyship involves actively listening to and uplifting the LGBTQIA+ community, supporting and advocating for inclusivity. By engaging in such messaging throughout the year, it aligns a brand with authentic inclusive values and demonstrates commitment to social progress.
Let's do better than just waving that rainbow flag for June Pride optics. We have the collective power to raise awareness, challenge norms, and truly inspire action in advertising.