It started with a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in NYC on June 28, 1969. Cynics would say it ended with a rainbow-wrapped Whopper and pink vodka. But there’s every reason to be proud of Pride. As our local Bournemouth community prepares to celebrate Bourne Free from 13-15 July, we’ve showed support by adding a splash of fabulous to our logo and looking back at the work we’ve done with brands on promoting diversity.
There remains, however, plenty of work to do…
In the 50+ years BBD has been in the business, we’ve witnessed seismic change in the way brands talk about diversity and equality. The first Google Trends data shows that searches for ‘LGBT’ scored 5% popularity in January 2004. By June 2018, that figure had reached 68%.
For those of us who grew up with the Oxo family and the Gold Blend couple, today’s advertising landscape represents a brave new world. It’s one in which Father’s Day is same-sex thanks to Dove, and Christmas same-sex according to Sainsbury’s. It’s one in which H&M spearheads a campaign with transgender actress Harl Nef. Even the Marlboro Man would raise an eyebrow when Lloyds Bank promoted its ‘For your next step’ campaign with – gasp – a same-sex couple.
We shouldn’t be surprised, however. Crude gender or identity stereotypes don’t just jar today, they cost business. With 47% of Millennials more likely to support a brand after seeing an equality-themed ad, everyone from FMCG to FinTech has been forced to respond.
And that’s the potential problem. Diversity shouldn’t be ‘forced’. It’s not a fad. There are lives involved who don’t ultimately benefit when a global corporation splashes its trainers with the rainbow once a year. So called ‘rainbow-‘ or ‘pinkwashing’ can be guilty of fetishizing a social issue, of hiding unresolved questions behind a superficial facade.
There’s a danger of brands ‘doing’ diversity without practising it. The creative industry we’re part of is regularly lambasted for drawing from a narrow demographic, no more so than when it comes to LGBT voices. As Iain Walters, deputy director of marketing for Pride in London said in Marketing Week, “There’s still a long way to go when you consider the proliferation of BAME characters and also the lack of gender equality in board rooms.”
So, yes, we’re looking forward to Bourne Free, Pride month and the continued appearance of diversity in advertising. But we’re also looking beyond that to better representation from the board room down, and to brands that match their billboard aspirations with presence on Workplace Equality Index (hats off on that point to 5th place Lloyds Banking Group).
Brands don’t create diversity. That honour stays with moments like the Stonewall Riots, the 2004 Civil Partnership Act and the repeal of Section 28. Unfortunately, we don’t interact with moments on a daily basis.
We do, however, with brands – so we’re proud to be part of an industry that continues to embrace progressive change.
For BBD Founder David Ford, the landscape today is unrecognisable from when he started out. “Life has not always been as easy today,” he says. “When I was in my 20's in London, the gay scene was daring, frightening and exciting in equal measures but very much underground especially at work. Probably one of the most frightening concerns was being outed - being found out as a homosexual.” The job is not yet finished, however.
“Today that fear still exists for many both in the UK and around the world where families, communities and Governments don’t necessarily hold the same views,” he adds. “So, it is great to play our very small part in this great global crusade. See you there.”