These Pioneering LGBTQIA+ Campaigns Changed Everything
Pride wasn't always an event that major brands acknowledged and celebrated. And this year's commemoration seems especially subdued, following a backlash against corporate support for LGBTQIA+ rights.
But through the years, many brands have stepped up, and their groundbreaking efforts—oft created in eras of heightened prejudice—deserve some extra recognition.
With that in mind, Terri & Sandy posted Pride ads throughout the month on Instagram, paying homage to campaigns (both recent and decades-old) that support the queer community.
As agency co-founder Terri Meyer says in her opening post:
"This is a critically important moment in time for our industry. Leading up to #PrideMonth, brands find themselves in the middle of a culture war. Just say 'Bud Light' and fury erupts on all sides of the political landscape. And Target, a longstanding ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, dropped Pride merchandise after receiving threats on their employees' lives..."
"Throughout June, we're paying tribute to the brave advertisers who paved the way in supporting this marginalized community. Our series, #PioneeringPrideAds, is a collection of revolutionary portrayals of the LGBTQIA+ community. These campaigns represent the very definition of Pride. By looking back at these bold examples from the past, may we all be inspired to continue forging a path toward progress."
Here's a chronological survey of Terri & Sandy's "Pioneering Pride" series:
Absolut Haring, 1986
It was once customary for alcohol brands to target the LGBTQIA+ community by advertising in the back pages of gay pornographic magazines. But in a revolutionary act of support, Absolut Vodka commissioned openly gay, pop art trailblazer Keith Haring, and plastered his work in mainstream journals. By working together, they created one of the most widely replicated pieces of art in advertising history—and raised the bar for alcohol brands everywhere.
United Colors of Benetton, 1990
During a period when advertising scarcely portrayed same-sex couples, creative director Oliviero Toscani's provocative image was a bold act of protest. This campaign clearly struck a chord with the public, stirring up conversations about gay marriage.
Ikea, 'Dining Room Table,' 1994
Despite protests from conservative and religious groups, Ikea refused to stop running this campaign. The ad is generally acknowledged as the first national commercial featuring a gay couple. The men are seen picking out furniture for their home. This wasn't a side of LGBTQIA+ life depicted at the time. But the quiet moment was heard around the world.
Subaru 'Different Drivers. Different Roads. One Car.' 1999
In the macho and conservative category of automobile advertising, Subaru stood out from the sheet metal. Of course, the phrase: "Over-indexing with lesbians" may have scared off lesser brands. But Subaru leaned in, showing queer-themed license plates reading "PTOWN" and "XENA LVR." (Google 'em, people!) Now, THAT'S what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.
Levi's, "Change," 2007
Not long ago, fashion brands felt that by alluding to homosexuality, their ads would provide an adequate representation of LGBTQIA+ individuals. Levi's changed all that. This same-sex romance was courageously overt, erasing any doubts about where the iconic denim company stood. Its bold stance still rings true today, proving that real inclusion never goes out of style.
Chevrolet, 'The New Us,' 2014
Russia isn't exactly famous for its stance on human rights and personal liberties. Never mind the government's lack of tolerance for the LGBTQIA+ community. So when Russia was selected to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, Chevrolet wanted to make a statement. For the first time, a spot featuring LGBTQIA+ couples ran during the opening ceremony.
Apple, 'First Dance,' 2018
Apple has a long history of supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. But it was this spot, which aired after Australia won its fight to legalize gay marriage, that danced its way into people's hearts. It served as a reminder that Pride isn't really about rainbow merch, but the right to love who you love.
Oreo 'Proud Parent,' 2020
Coming out can be a tough decision for many reasons, but one stands out: Fear of being ostracized by family. In a stirring short film, Oreo tackled the complicated relationship between parents and their LGBTQIA+ children. What seems like a father's apprehension blossoms into a proud, colorful expression of love. Smart cookie!