Diana Ellis-Hill: Why Pride Month shouldn’t just be a once a year event for brands

In Pride Month our team has raised the question of whether we should be turning our logo rainbow in open support of pride month as the debate continues amongst brands and campaigners regarding rainbow washing. Yet, my co-founder Meg and I turned to each other in slight bemusement – how could we, an entirely LGBTQ+ owned agency, possibly rainbow wash our own company?

We have always seen Pride as an opportunity to (literally) nail our colours to the flag. So why the concern?

Well, showing support for our community isn’t a one month a year thing. It’s about ensuring we, and brands, are walking the walk, not just talking the talk. It can’t be a simple act of outward support; it has to be backed up with action and advocacy. We’ve noticed too many brands using rainbows across their products and comms, hoping for the halo effect of seeming inclusive, whilst showing little or no evidence of supporting LGBTQ+ people in tangible ways. It’s called performative activism and it has a damaging effect within the community, and to the brand. With the rise of social media, fact checking and accountability, it doesn’t take long for customers to see where your true values lie.

I’ve looked at the landscape and asked myself. what does true LGBTQ+ advocacy looks like for brands and their agencies? And how can we put our powers to good use?

Firstly, representation. What LGBTQ+ stories, lives and casts are in your communications? And how can we normalise these? We applaud ANY work that supports the real struggles LGBTQ+ continue to face, these can cut through and change hearts and minds when confronted with the struggles we face. Sensitively portraying the moments we uniquely experience as LGBTQ+ people – coming out moments, overcoming prejudice, bravely living as our true selves – like Starbucks UK’s Every name’s a story campaign and more recently for India.

But we applaud even further when a brand chose to include LGBTQ+ people in their comms just living regular lives in stories that could be lived by anyone. Like Vauxhall UK’s ‘Keeps calm and carries on’ TV spot
that features a couple heading to hospital for the imminent birth of their child – they just so happen to be LGBTQ+.

We can reach millions of people through creative. Normalising LGBTQ+ lives and experiences is one of the greatest things we can do as an industry for our community. To make the lives of the next generation that little bit easier.

Secondly, support for LGBTQ+ members of your team and the wider community. What do your DE&I policies look like? Who are you hiring, and do you have LGBTQ+ people in roles that oversee your creative output? How are you giving back? If you are benefitting from the purchasing power of our community, are you giving back by supporting charities and initiatives? The relationship can’t be all take from brands.

A fantastic example of this being done authentically is Savage x Fenty (below.) Not only do they feature models of various gender identities and non-binary and trans celebrities, but Rhianna’s own foundation, the Clara Lionel Foundation, gives back to LGBTQ+ organisations, including GLAAD and For The Gworls.

As a team we have made real plans on how we can better support LGBT+ people through our company. We WILL be turning our logo rainbow for Pride month, not only because we believe in showing support for our community and celebrating everything that Pride means to us, but it will be because we truly advocate for LGBTQ+ people in our work, in our community and in our company all year round and we hope brands will also look inward and outwards for Pride.

Diana Ellis-Hill is co-founder & director of creative studio Be The Fox.

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