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Pride Without Prejudice: Brand Purpose In LGBT Ads

Long-standing bigoted underpinnings in the United States and beyond have broken out of the closet and ignited a full-on culture war. The Trans+ community is braving the harshest blows, with anti-trans and anti-drag bills headlining the over 470 bills attacking LGBTQ representation and rights currently being proposed by US politicians. Pride advertising campaigns are playing a central part in the fight, with brands that are trans activists and allies receiving unprecedented backlash and anti-trans brands fueling ardent Pride marketing and procurement from their more compassionate competitors.

Amidst the chaos, companies that soften and wash rainbow paint from their middle fingers in the name of safety and saving profits are walking the plank from allyship. To avoid being swept into the sea, barricaded between cannons firing on both sides, brands must stand their ground. After all, trans people belong in all ads, not just the H&M Pride collection!

lgbt advertising. pride campaign creative from H&M.

(Photo cred: H&M)

Braving the Backlash: Cancel-Culture In an Anti-Trans Climate

Whether because of pride clothing or a borderline-political campaign, brands like Bud Light and Target are getting “canceled” for partnering with trans models and selling trans-targeted merchandise such as tuck-friendly swimsuits. After backing out on their commitment to LGBTQ-loving merch and media production and conforming to the cries of transphobic customers, they are left with less profits, little to no support from the side they catered to, and utterly sunken allyship.

Swing the camera in the other direction, and you’ll see that more sinister cancellations have simultaneously been underway. Almost no Pride event was left untouched this year, with many States slapping on strict age restrictions and some even shutting them down completely. 

pride celebration featuring pride flags and rainbows for equaity

This begs the question of which is worse: social cancellation for showcasing and subsequently abandoning corporate allyship or barring children and adults from celebrating who they are with their community? 

LGBTQIA-Integrated Marketing: More Than a Month of Rainbows

Industry lobby groups aside, there are many small actions a company can take to support the LGBTQ+ community, and even more that can be accomplished through collaborative advocacy. We all know performative marketing—a.k.a rainbow-washed social activism—is not worth weaving into an advertising campaign. So, what is Pride beneath its colorful guise?

Pride Month advertising is apt to be taken as a commercialization of queer culture, so a communication strategy that shows your company truly cares about the community and not just its own brand awareness is vital. For a fully allied brand activation, cause marketing and content production that continue after Pride Month is a promising place to start. 

It’s not enough to parade your pride like Absolut and avoid addressing it publicly, either. Take inspo from Miller Lite and make your stance heard!

open and proud lgbt-friendly sign for pride

(Photo cred: Miller Lite)

Not just any Pride campaign idea will do! Problematic LGBT ads lacking genuine social awareness are worse than silence— Just ask the gender non-conforming shakers and ad makers of Trans+ Adland, who’ve wept at their keyboards over LGBT marketing fails and the hate they foster. 

Through passionate grassroots efforts, they have proven that the best path to progressive brand storytelling starts at a protective gate for Pride staff. That and inclusivity! To lift the Trans+ community’s team spirit to higher and safer ground, we must rise above LGBT advertising masks and marketing to LGBT community and tend to the seeds in our own garden.

It’s time to choose a side: Will you wave a flag or waver in your footing? 

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