From plastic parents to parched pool boys.
From questioning teens to spoofing scenes.
What’s this? It must be the PrideAM Creative Review!
Evidently unperturbed by the box of electronic butler to which their brave new worlds have become inextricably chained, a gay family prepares for the day. But it’s almost literally a model family; all pristine, crisp shirts, perfectly coiffured hair and a level plasticity not seen since the good Doctor in the TARDIS last nobbled an Auton invasion. Perhaps this level of artificiality plays well with a U.S. audience, but we suspect that anything too squeaky clean is quickly spotted by U.K. viewers.
There’s little physical interaction between these two dads. In this household, a pat on the back apparently carries the same connotation as a kiss goodbye. So while the family bond is clear, the visibility of same-sex interaction is oddly muted.
On the other hand, the ad’s message of multiple voice recognition is presented successfully and cleverly, and with evident targeting of the Pink Pound, Google have clearly done their research and discovered that a lot of gay men love gadgets and tech.
Reactions from the panel were mixed. While some members felt the idea was good, others opined that this family seemed too perfectly contrived and a touch unrealistic. But then, this is Ad-Land.
By comparison to Google’s android Brady Bunch, Icelandair present us with a very simple switch of traditional advertising roles. The predictably waxy hetero holidaymakers of old have been replaced by a gay man and his older bear boyfriend/husband. Wow! An age gap is allowed! A couple that don’t look like they’ve been cloned from the same cell!
It’s genuinely refreshing to see this acknowledged in such a matter-of-fact way. And that’s where the charm of this ad resides. It’s not a big display of rainbows and glitter, just two people enjoying themselves in a way that seems quite genuine.
This ad could almost have been a template for the Pride Brand Makeover launched by PrideAM back in June.
Moving away from their traditional tongue-in-cheek odes to the questionable attractiveness of teenagers, this Axe ad (or Lynx in UK usage) takes a more philosophical tone, vocalising the questions it believes young males are asking themselves.
What exactly are the definitions of budding manhood in the modern age? Do we still box ourselves in with definitions as we explore life? What is OK?
Whereas this could easily have descended into a mawkish lecture, Axe explores the subject in a way that’s designed not to patronise its audience.
From the PrideAM Creative Review panel’s perspective, one of the key questions asked is: “Is it okay to experiment with other guys?”
It’s a carefully considered approach that doesn’t seek to define sexuality for a generation of youngsters of whom approximately half don’t describe themselves as ‘exclusively heterosexual’ according to recent surveys.
It simultaneously speaks to an older generation of men who asked themselves this question in a more judgemental era.
The quick edits also allow for considerable diversity in the young men asking the questions.
We liked it a lot.
Because marketing is often tricky to get right; a message delivered with a sledgehammer will be seen as condescending, while a message that is too vague will seem like a bland attempt to hop on a bandwagon. Tying a social cause to a product is a delicate business and advertisers should always remember their place; they can genuinely show support for a cause, but they can never make themselves the centre of that cause without appearing to trivialise and commoditise the issues at stake.
Unfortunately, Heineken have got this one wrong. The ad’s conceit is that it brings together two people of opposing views, gets them to work together on a short building project, bond a little, and then share their contrasting views of the world. Their intensely different perspectives can be discussed over – you guessed it – a bottle of Heineken.
Wait – what?
The world’s problems could be resolved simply by sitting down together and sipping a beer?
Oh dude, why didn’t we try that before?
Tell Marsha P. Johnson and Cleve Jones!
Tell Lavender Menace and OutRage! and the Gay Liberation Front!
They got it all wrong. Their struggles were apparently a waste of time.
All those angry broflakes just needed a brewski.
And that’s the big problem. It’s the kind of saccharine, simplistic perspective that shows you have never really had to live it. Distil this ad down and it smacks of pat-on-the-head privilege that is actually quite dismissive of hundreds of years of struggles.
Atop that, it presents the smug, pouting alt-right anti-feminist on equal footing with the forthright black feminist, and the rather shouty climate change denier as equal to the man who acknowledges the science of climate change and champions environmental issues.
In each case, one party clearly has the better factual grounding and yet apparently is expected to waste their time nodding politely as a disaffected middle-aged toddler barks a load of BS.
Well, it’s a test of patience at least.
We never really see a change of opinion, only the very tip of the iceberg on each subject and some hastily shared platitudes. Heineken have wasted an opportunity to do some genuine good by educating the audience.
It is only when we are presented with the meeting of an outspokenly anti-trans man and an ex-military trans woman that any ground is gained and barriers genuinely appear to come done.
On the plus side, the trans woman in this ad is featured quite prominently. But, alas, it is not enough; and this Heineken ad loses credibility and veers dangerously close to being disingenuous.
Speaking of platitudes, let’s take a look at Air B’n’B’s Superbowl ad.
Sure, it preaches a sort of nebulous acceptance in these grimly Trumpy times, but it’s far too wishy-washy to feel really committed to a cause. Its plea for understanding doesn’t really elicit warm, fuzzy feelings as much as remind you that you haven’t seen Michael Jackson’s Black Or White video in quite a while.
Aside from the shapelessness of the appeal to hug and be hugged, brand purpose in this ad is also completely unclear.
What is Air B’n’B? How are they tying this message into their business?
The information isn’t here, so it feels like a statement that just about anyone could potentially have tacked onto their brand.
Here is an ad that flies its LGBT+ flag in a seamless piece of humorous storytelling.
Living, as it apparently does, in the next road on from Wisteria Lane, this Desperate Housewives-esque sketch presents a family competing for the attention of a suntanned and sweaty pool boy. A race ensues to quench the thirst of this would-be Adonis.
It is a genuinely amusing vignette that catapults the now well-worn Diet Coke Break into the 21st century.
Its representation of a young gay man is impossible to mistake, but it also presents his sister in a strong light. Fine, she’s drooling over the pool boy too, but in the fraught battle from fridge to fancy man, she gives as good as she gets.
And there’s never a moment when sister or mother question the gay teenager’s motives, presumably meaning that his sexuality is completely accepted in this open family dynamic.
One member of the panel described this ad as ‘Pride Brand Makeover Gold’.
The panel had very mixed reactions to this spoof of American election campaigns.
The ad in question presents a same-sex wedding with two all-too-perfectly preened grooms, and then makes light of the stereotypical guests that could be found at most weddings. The fabricated feel of the newlyweds and the whole disinfected display are intentionally contrived for comedy effect (unlike the Over-groomed Google Home Homos), but some members of the panel thought the ad should have been funnier.
Budweiser have shelled out for solid and no doubt expensive talent, in the shape of Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen (an even more appealing shape in my personal opinion), but the script isn’t as punchy as it ought to be and does not do the skills of these two performers justice.
Is there an argument that the flippant tone of the ad actually trivialises same-sex marriages?
The ad appears to be made with good intentions. Rogen has certainly embraced his role as honorary gay bear with his appearance in queer zine Pinups. And if you want to win people over, make ‘em laugh.
But, undeniably, it would be easier to laugh at same-sex weddings if a number of politicians around the world hadn’t made it their aim to prevent LGBT+ people from ever having their special moment.
A strange piece of creative. While the LGBT+ visibility is obvious, the slogan ‘Stop clicking around’ makes it feel almost judgemental. Okay, the slogan is part of a wider campaign, but when stuck next to an image of two gay guys in bed, does it begin to look like it’s suggesting that gay men are intrinsically promiscuous? Or that being free and single is less valid?
If it’s just a joke, does it end up being a joke at the expense of the legitimacy of some gay lifestyles?
Maybe it plays to stereotypes in a way that the Icelandair ad definitely doesn’t.
Perhaps it’s just a weirdly misjudged clash of word and image that leads to awkward associations.
There’s a definite sense of ‘could do better’ about this one.
Match – Love Your Imperfections
Oh dear. Comments that this ad elicited from the panel included the phrase ‘car crash’. Eeesh.
As two young, semi-naked models embrace in a living area that really is quite excessively messy, it feels more like titillation for sex-starved boys with lesbian fetishes than a genuine depiction of a young lesbian couple. The over-sexualised tone shoots wide off the mark.
In a moment of meta-irony, we’re told that Model Number 2 loves Model Number 1’s imperfections. We’re sure the problem could be solved by investing in a wardrobe with a door.
It is regrettable, because if Match had aimed for less gloss, glamour and flesh, this could have been a meaningful moment.
Notably, this seems to be the only ad in the review to prominently feature lesbians. Ladies still seem to be woefully underrepresented. So let this be a wake-up call, Ad-Land.
Unilever’s inclusive look at different approaches to motherhood is truthful, if perhaps not groundbreaking for the brand. It is of particular interest to the PrideAM Creative Review because among a diverse assembly of mums it features a trans mum who talks to the camera about her experiences.
In terms of LGBT+ visibility and LGBT+ representation this is most welcome. It’s authentic and respectful.
But arguably, the creative format of this ad is a well-trodden path for the Dove brand. Consistent, but perhaps a little predictable.
(Further investigation reveals there is also a Dove Dads ad, but this appears to be just a montage of various dads having fun with their kids with no discussion of their experiences. Maybe dads aren’t as willing to talk, but we suspect there was further insight to be discovered.)
Smart indeed. This phone provider has managed to create a sincere and touching narrative that hinges on acceptance, both in a social media friend request and in the real lives of a Filipino family. It is deceptively simple and ties in perfectly with the brand. And when a beautiful little idea is executed skilfully, it reaps rewards.
LGBTQ Nation applauded it. Mashable called it 'bold'. Even the Daily Mail Online wrote about the ad’s largely positive reception in the predominantly Catholic Philippines without adding anything nasty.
I know. I was shocked too.
Stick this one in your search engine and spare a couple of minutes to admire a job well done.
So, what did we learn?
Well, there were more ads to choose from this time round. And some of them got it very right, while others need to dig deeper. The best creative doesn’t just tick boxes.
Attempts at honest representation of Trans people should be applauded, but brands shouldn’t try to steal the limelight. A strong narrative generally wins hearts. A sense of humour warms us to a brand. Diversity in the depictions of LGBT+ people has increased a little - but where are the Lesbians?
Oh yes, apparently they’re all buried under a pile of unwashed clothes somewhere in a studio apartment.
And Bisexual representation? Ay, there’s the rub. When it comes to creating an advert, they just don’t appear to exist.
If you would like the PrideAM panel to review your LGBT+ inclusive ad in our next Creative Review, then please submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you again next time.
Written by Phil Clements, Member and Spokesperson for PrideAM