U.S. Flag Loses 29 Stars in Campaign for LGBTQ+ Equality

WPP Unite designs a 'Reality Flag'

A field of 21 stars instead of 50 makes for a bleak, distorted American flag. These banners serve as salient symbols in a pointed campaign backing federal legislation that would ensure nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across the U.S.

"Fifty states, promising freedom for all," a voiceover says in the anthem spot below. "But today, under state law in 29 states, a business could refuse service because of who you love. Housing could be denied because of your gender identity. Medical care could be rejected because you're a woman with a wife."

LGBTQ+ folks appear on screen, unfurling 21-star "Reality Flags" to illustrate the message:

The Reality Flag

"In 29 states," the narrator concludes, "basic freedoms are missing for millions of LGBTQ+ Americans. This flag is the reality. But we can change it. Because this is America."

WPP Unite—an LGBTQ+ resource group within the holding company—spearheaded the campaign, with input from agencies VMLY&R, BCW, Wavemaker and Hogarth. The work supports efforts by the Human Rights Campaign to pass the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination in areas such as employment, education, housing and credit.

"The American flag is seen by many as the ultimate symbol of freedom. But LGBTQ+ people lack many basic freedoms in a majority of states—29, to be exact," says HRC SVP Kelli Stam. "The 'Reality Flag' removes 29 stars to reflect the reality that LGBTQ+ are missing those freedoms. This isn't the flag LGBTQ+ people want, but it's the flag that we have. We wanted to create this campaign, anchored by this powerful, evocative image, to not only educate people across the country—60 percent of whom believe LGBTQ+ people have the same rights as everyone else—but to also inspire Americans to take action."

Two-time Emmy winner Joey Soloway—creator of Amazon's Transparent and a non-binary/non-gender-conforming person—served as director.

"This campaign was created to reach and resonate with people in every corner of the country—from large coastal cities to small-town communities," says VMLY&R managing director Brian Stout. "The LGBTQ+ community isn't confined to a certain geography, and our campaign reflects that. It's why we're calling attention to the stories of LGBTQ+ people who are impacted by discrimination."

Such folks include Navy vet Staci, denied health services in Minnesota for being a lesbian, and Queen, a transgender woman from North Carolina evicted over issues of identity:

Staci J

Elements will appear on TV and online, as well as in print, cinemas and OOH venues through deals with Hearst, various corporations and social-media influencers.

In addition, HRC will display an 85-foot-long "Reality Flag" at its Washington, D.C., headquarters, a few blocks from the White House, ahead of next week's State of the Union address.

"The legislation was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in February 2021, and now waits for further action in the Senate," Stam says. "Our hope is that people across the country will visit RealityFlag.com to sign on in support of the Equality Act and help us make the case."


Client: Human Right's Campaign
Campaign: Reality Flag

Brian Ellner WPP Unite NA Sponsor, WPP Head of Public Affairs NA
Graham Smith Global LGBTQ+ ERG Chair, Managing Director, Strategy, VMLY&R
Brian Stout Managing Director, Strategy & Insights, VMLY&R Chicago
Debbi Vandeven Global Chief Creative Officer, VMLY&R
John Godsey Chief Creative Officer NA, VMLY&R
Aaron Evanson Executive Creative Director, VMLY&R Chicago
Arlo Oviatt Executive Creative Director, Redfuse Kansas City
Jeff Beck Group Creative Director, VMLY&R Chicago
Nok Sangdee Group Creative Director, VMLY&R Chicago
Greg Lotus Global Head of Production, VMLY&R
Seda Calbay Producer, Integrated Production, VMLY&R Chicago
Janet Muentes Senior Business Affairs Manager, VMLY&R
Theresa Notartomaso VMLY&R Executive Music Producer
Joe Michaelson Group Director, Experience Design, VMLY&R Chicago
Alex Helfers Director, Experience Design, VMLY&R Chicago
Chelsea Dubin Group Director, Account, VMLY&R New York
Camille Lavoie Account Manager, VMLY&R New York
Gaby Ringvald Connections Director, VMLY&R New York
Doron Faktor Group Connections Director, VMLY&R New York
Andy Slaughter Vice President, NA ERG Lead, BCW
Taylor Carr Account Director, BCW
Kevin Walther Vice President, Strategy, BCW
Joshua Hill Account Supervisor, BCW
Devon Esper Client Business Manager, Wavemaker
Rachel Killmeyer Senior Associate, Content & Experience, Wavemaker
Daniel Langley Associate Media Director, Planning, Wavemaker
Chip Green Managing Director, Video Investment, Wavemaker
AJ Rowe Head of Content and Culture, Hogarth

Director: Joey Soloway
Production company: The Cornershop
Producer: Magdalena Czmuda
Producer: Para
DP: Bianca Cline
1st AD Howell Caldwell
Music: John Ferreira
Editor: Alyssa Oh
Exec Producer Cornershop: Jessica Miller
Producer Rock Paper Scissors: Cecilia Melton

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