APAC creatives on making Pride Month beyond a PR exercise

APAC creatives on making Pride Month beyond a PR exercise


RELATED PRODUCTS
Ads by MyCBGenie 
 


Pride celebrations in some markets in Asia have been gaining momentum in recent years, a good indicator of either growing LGBTQIA+ acceptance and inclusion, or a more empowered community. In other markets, progress is being undone. Brands seeking to align with the celebration should understand the difference.

Taiwan, which recovered quickly from Covid-19, hosted the world’s biggest in-person Pride celebration of the year in November with an estimated 130,000 attendees. The market drew its largest-ever Pride gathering in 2019 with more than 200,000 attendees, in the same year it made history as the first country in Asia to legalise gay marriage.

While the LGBTQIA+ community in Taiwan came together the celebrate progress, the Philippines gathered the largest Pride parade of Southeast Asia in Metro Manila in 2019—with an estimated 77,000 attendees—for a different reason. One month before the celebration, President Rodrigo Duterte told a crowd that in his younger days he “cured” himself of homosexuality with the help of “beautiful women”. His comments became a talking point of the event, as marchers pushed for same-sex rights in the deeply Catholic nation.

Contrasting the two record-breaking Pride events in 2019 shows the event is as much a political protest as it is a celebration. As we have discovered in our series exploring the lives of LGBQTIA+ individuals in Asia, while communities are growing, for many they are doing so under repressive laws. Daily discrimation, family and religious pressure remain common for many in the LGBTQIA+ community.

For some, the Pride celebration has been taken away altogether. In 2019, Hong Kong’s annual Pride parade was downgraded to a stationary rally as police cracked down on gatherings amid the pro-democracy protests. China’s only major annual celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community, Shanghai Pride, which had been growing in momentum over its 11 years, was shut down in August last year following mounting pressure from the authorities.

With awareness of LGBTQIA+ rights in Asia growing, we continue to see more LGBTQIA+ individuals featured in advertising and media, and a longer list of Pride-themed campaigns and products. But the requirement for brands to back up campaigns with action and understand the sensitivies in Asia is increasing. As with every diversity movement around the world, Pride should not be seen as simply a monetisation opportunity.

As we enter Pride month, we ask Asia-Pacific-based agency executives who are in the LGBTQIA+ community or have devised Pride campaigns, to give their advice on how brands can authentically celebrate the movement and avoid pinkwashing.

Participants (Pictured from left to right above):

Melina Fiolitakis, senior art director at FCB Auckland, has worked on several campaigns to aid the LGBTQIA+ community, including a recent campaign for NZ AIDS Foundation. She identifies as a lesbian and says Pride is a cause “very close to my glittery little heart”.

Hesperus Mak, the head of strategic planning at TBWA Group Vietnam, also took part in Campaign Asia-Pacific’s LGBTQIA+ interview series, providing a perspective from Vietnam.

Olivia Warren, managing director of Initiative Studio Australia, identifies as a gay woman and has worked on several LGBTQIA+ campaigns in the past for Absolut and Ben & Jerry’s.

Brands are increasingly being called out for aligning with festivals or events without having policies in place to support the movements, from the Black Lives Matter movement to International Women’s Day. If a brand wants to celebrate Pride, what steps would you recommend they take to avoid being accused of pinkwashing?

Mak:

I think there is a fine line between pinkwashing and supporting the movement. People today are very good at smelling inauthenticity. Authenticity is grounded in actions. Even Ellen DeGeneres, an icon of authenticity, had been cancelled overnight when people found out her actions didn’t match with what she said.

Often companies may overlook the fact that Pride is just one of the many occasions for the community. Firstly, Pride parades or events often happen at different times of the year depending on the country. Secondly, Pride usually exclusively shows people who have already come out, and forgets the majority that live under the radar.

So rather than using Pride to monetise, use Pride as an occasion to celebrate what your brand has done to support the community every day. There is more to be done in your company’s everyday practices. Start by looking at how you support your LGBT staff or cast a LGBT role in your regular ads.

Fiolitakis:

Pride is really fun, who wouldn’t want to be involved?! But it shouldn’t be a PR exercise to make the company look good—you need to actually care about the cause and want to make a difference. Make sure you have something to back up the claim that you support Pride. What is your company actually doing to support the community? And at its heart, Pride is about human rights, so if your company has a history of inequality, sexism, racism, homophobia, or has ties to anti-LGBTIQ+ organisations—you need to fix that first.

When devising a Pride marketing strategy, what are the steps you take to ensure authenticity and success?

Fiolitakis:

Involve a range of people from the community. Employ them on your team, consult them, feature them in the work, and be willing to learn from their perspectives. Through the process, be willing to adapt the strategy as you go to ensure it is authentic and supportive. Your strategy should be backed up with real commitment to the cause, whether that’s donating to local organisations that improve the lives of the rainbow community, fostering a diverse workforce within your own organisation, a long-term commitment to supporting and celebrating the community through your marketing so it isn’t just a one off. All these things will make your strategy more meaningful, and the community will trust you more in return.

How do you feel about pride-themed products, is this appropriate?

Warren:

To be honest these can be really hit or miss and can sometimes be borderline tacky. To avoid a ‘rainbow wash’ it is important if brands want to pride-theme their products that they provide a direct benefit to the community.

Fiolitakis:

It depends who’s making them, and where the proceeds are going. Pride isn’t something to be capitalised on, it’s a celebration born out of a history of struggle and discrimination. So unless the product is giving back to the community, maybe think twice.

Mak:

While it’s delightful to see more brands launching their Pride-themed products, I would expect more especially from international brands. It’s rather superficial to just slap the rainbow colour on your products and call it supporting the community. Design a good product but also donate part of your proceeds to support a LGBT cause. (RED) by Apple which supports HIV/AIDS programmes is a good example that shows launching a product can benefit a community.

In general, how do you feel about brands jumping on the Pride bandwagon? Do you find it ghettoising, that this is for many the only time they celebrate the LGBT community, or is it a positive reminder to do so?

Fiolitakis:

It’s not a bad thing in the sense that it normalises supporting Pride and encourages more brands to do so. But it’s not enough to update your brand’s Facebook profile picture to have a rainbow in it. This doesn’t mean much on its own. It needs to be backed up with action. Things like engaging with community initiatives. Representing the community in your work. Contributing time, effort or resources to rainbow organisations. And providing a safe environment for your own rainbow employees. That way you’re actually making a difference to people’s lives.

Mak:

In general it’s a positive trend to see, especially in Asia, that the acceptance towards the LGBT community is not as prevalent as in Europe or America. While I would hope to see brands make it more of a year-round effort, it’s still a good first step for a brand to just come out and say they recognize this community.

Warren:

Within the Asia-Pacific region LGBTQIA+ rights are still limited in comparision to the rest of the world. With same-sex sexual activity illegal in 22 Asian countries, there is still a long way to go in terms of achieving equality within the region. As such I believe that the more brands that celebrate, advocate, and empower during Pride month only serves to increase visibility and in turn acceptance of the community within the region.

To create real change within the region and avoid just jumping on the Pride ‘bandwagon’ I firmly believe that organisations/brands need to ‘practice what they preach’ and ensure that their HR and workplace policies also embrace LGBTQIA+ rights. How they activate in the space is just as important as doing it. Not just a logo slap and association, but a more meaningful activation that contributes to positive change is what is required 100% of the time.

This ensures that they are genuine in their celebration and are helping create positive change within the region, moving the community closer to true acceptance and equality.

Which has more merit: a campaign targeting discrimination and stigmas, or a campaign celebrating the community?

Mak:

I would encourage both because we need more conversations to talk about what LGBT community is. I think there are still lots of misconceptions in Asia. However I would gravitate towards unity over divide—the more we focus on the differences, the less likely the community would gain wider acceptance. Research shows that even in countries that have low LGBT acceptance, they would agree that LGBT right is a human right. Focus on the universal values that we all share helps us to be included.

Warren:

Both are of equal merit as the core Pride advertising should be about increasing visibility, embracing the community, and ultimately empowering the LGBTQIA+ community to speak their own truth. Speaking as a gay woman, I am moved by both campaigns that draw attention to issues still experienced by the community as well as uplifted by those that celebrate us.

Fiolitakis:

Targeting discrimination and stigma is important, especially when you consider the impact it’s had, and is still having, on the rainbow community in 2021. For example, in New Zealand we have disproportionately high rates of mental illness and suicide among the LGBTIQIA+ community. We’ve come a long way, but still have so far to go. If you make a campaign targeting discrimination and stigma that educates people and changes their minds, you’re changing people’s lives. But celebrating and supporting the community is great too. Why not do both?

If you see brands or organisations sharing the stories/experiences of their LGBT staff during Pride, how does this make you feel? Would you be more likely to buy from a brand that has actively engaged with the LGBT community?

Mak:

I would certainly favour the brand a bit more if they actively engaged with the LGBT community. However I would also be curious about if they have a DEI policy in place to support those LGBT staff.

Fiolitakis:

Happy! It’s always positive to see an organisation with rainbow staff who feel safe bringing their whole selves to work. It should be the norm though—nobody should have to hide who they are in the workplace, or anywhere. Personally, it would make me hold a brand in higher esteem, provided the engagement was meaningful and based in a genuine, long-term commitment to understanding, supporting and celebrating the community.

Warren:

I would certainly favour the brand a bit more if they actively engaged with the LGBT community. However I would also be curious about if they have a DEI policy in place to support those LGBT staff.

Can you provide examples of brands (preferably in APAC) that have nailed it when celebrating Pride?

Fiolitakis:

ANZ’s long-term commitment to supporting Pride springs to mind. I still remember the #holdtight TVC from 2017. I was on my own journey of coming out at the time, and it really got me. They took something as simple as being scared to hold hands in public, and made a whole ad about that. It was like saying to the rainbow community ‘we see you, and we understand your struggle’. While also giving those outside of the community some insight into how hard it is to be LGBTIQ+ every day. For me, ANZ is a great example of how a brand can celebrate Pride in fun and positive ways (the GAYTMs for example) while also showing a deeper understanding of the discrimination and stigma faced by the community, and a commitment to changing that.

Mak:

Alibaba did an ad featuring a gay couple returning home in the Chinese New Year last year. It’s a perfect example of showing inclusion in the most important day of the year for a Chinese family. AIG Japan partnered with the New Zealand national rugby teams All Blacks and the Black Ferns to create a Pride Jersey. The jersey was made from a fabric that appears black but reveals a spectrum of rainbow colour when stretched to communicate the message of Diversity is Strength. What makes it believable is that AIG Japan has been rated Gold in the Pride Index in Japan for five consecutive years, showing its efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion.

Warren:

I may be a little biased as I was fortunate enough to work on the campaign, but the best example would be the Ben & Jerry’s ‘Ban Two Scoops’ campaign back in 2017. Ben & Jerry’s has had a history of showing support for marriage equality, and when Australia went through the plebiscite it was time for Ben & Jerry’s to take a stand. Partnering with The Equality Campaign, Ben & Jerry’s put their money where their mouth is and banned customers from ordering two scoops of the same ice-cream flavor in a fight for marriage equality in Australia. At all 26 stores in Australia, Ben & Jerry’s set up a postal system where customers could have their say and hand-write letters to MPs. We then delivered those letters to local MPs and pushed them to act.

Another favorite of mine would have to be the recent work from Absolut during this year’s Mardi Gras in Australia. Like Ben & Jerry’s, Absolut’s support of the community has been long-standing, and for more than 40 years Absolut has been a proud supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community. This year to mark this meaningful milestone they set out to create a Pride rally like no other.

While Australia is an international beacon for LGBTQIA+ Pride, sadly, outside of our city limits, the rainbow flag quicky fades. So, in the lead-up to Mardi Gras, we exported Pride from the glitzy Sydney to traditional country towns by taking a ‘Pride Torch’ on a relay across the nation, transforming small towns into ‘mini-Mardi Gras’. We converted local drinking holes into Pride pubs, and we partnered with LGBTQIA+ allies Pedestrian.tv to help find members of the rural LGBTQIA+ community who would be willing to boldly tell their story. In stark contrast to the Sydney parade, tradie steel-cap boots and high-vis work shirts could be seen dancing in unison with Jackie Daniels’ drag heels and sequined skirt. Finally, we normalised being queer in the country with a five-part docu-series highlighting the struggles and support LGBTQIA+ people experience in rural towns.

Unfortunately, I personally experienced hateful harassment first-hand during these activations, to the point where the local authorities had to be involved. What this taught me, is that whilst positive change has begun, we still have a long way to go. It is still just as important and meaningful for brands to continually step up and support the queer community.

Can you provide examples of brands (preferably in APAC) that have totally missed the mark when celebrating Pride?

Warren:

Barilla Pasta.

In good conscience there is no way I would ever buy a Barilla product again and speaking as someone with an Italian mother, this is hard to do!

Back in 2013 their chairman (and owner) came out against homosexuality as it goes against the core values of the ‘common family’, and he openly opposes adoption by gay parents. Thankfully, Barilla faced huge backlash from the removal of the product on the shelves of core retailers to celebrity outrage.

Fast forward to 2018, the brand launched lesbian-themed packaging featuring two women sharing a strand of pasta (think ‘Lady and the Tramp’). To me this somewhat homoerotic packaging is disingenuous and borderline insulting, and with the chairman still in charge, clearly only a response to the backlash and declining sales as opposed to wanting to create actual change and advocacy for the community.

Fiolitakis:

I won’t name names. But any brand that has tried to celebrate Pride with genuine intent is making a positive step in the right direction. It’s important to remember that it’s a journey and we’re all learning. If you miss the mark, educate yourself, own up to it, and commit to doing better. The community will respect you for that.

Mak:

Marks & Spencers launched a LGBT (Lettuce, Guac, Bacon, Tomato) sandwich in UK. It’s just embarrassing to see.

How would you say the Pride movement has evolved across APAC in recent years?

Mak:

Pride participation was gradually increasing pre-Covid-19. However, the pandemic certainly took a toll on the movement with our attention turning to health as a priority. On the other hand we see more brands coming out to support LGBT community, which is definitely a motivating sign.

Fiolitakis:

I’ll just speak about New Zealand here. Acceptance and visibility have progressed a lot in recent years. The representation that you see in advertising/TV/film nowadays is something I would have loved to see when I was younger, and it gives me hope for young queer people today. But there is still a long way to go in supporting our most vulnerable. The fact that conversion therapy still happens, or that our cities have a lack of safe spaces for the community, or that health outcomes are worse for LGBTIQIA+ people—all shows that we need to keep going. The great thing is that as an industry, we have a lot of power to push this change forward.


Click here to subscribe to the FREE Asia PR & comms bulletin to receive dedicated news, features and comment from the region straight to your inbox. Make sure you register for the site to access more than one story per month.

To submit a news, comment, case study or analysis idea for the Asia bulletin, email Surekha.Ragavan@haymarket.asia



Source link

 

Loading......
 

Leave a Reply