Heritage brands open door to LGBT families

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As marriage equality gains momentum in the US, new campaigns are setting a place at the table for LGBT households

Tiffany. Honey Maid. Hallmark. These brands eschew the cutting edge for an appeal to tradition — which makes their recent embrace of same-sex marriage and family life a game-changer. 

Hallmark last week rolled out this year’s Valentine’s Day campaign created by Leo Burnett. "Put Your Heart to Paper" features couples describing the feelings their significant others provoke. Among the spots: Eugenia and Corinna, who have been a couple for two years.

Hallmark’s low-key inclusion of a real-life, same-sex couple is the latest in a series of campaigns from brand stalwarts that render the presence of LGBT households unremarkable. Earlier in January, Tiffany unveiled a print campaign focused on engagement that featured two men among its varied couples. And in 2014, Honey Maid’s "This Is Wholesome" campaign created by Droga5 matter-of-factly presented two dads with their kids (along with a single father and multiracial couple).

These brands — and others like Marriott and JC Penney — are part of a sea change in marketing that includes the LGBT community as part of the American experience.  Many national brands have long created campaigns specifically for gay consumers; however, the move to mainstream is a recent one that reflects (and helps catalyze) changing attitudes about LGBT families.

It’s also sparked a new wave of creative that looks at marriage and family from a different perspective. Tiffany R. Warren, senior vice president and chief diversity officer for Omnicom Group in New York and founder of ADCOLOR (an industry diversity group) spoke of the challenges she once faced identifying great campaigns for GLAAD’s Amplifier Awards honoring LGBT advertising.

"As a part of the executive committee for GLAAD, I used to struggle, looking through creative that wasn’t really creative," Warren said. "There were more promos and fewer full-blown campaigns."

For Warren, the "’Sixth Sense’ moment" that revealed LGBT marriage had reached the mainstream was the 2013 Amazon "Husbands" Kindle Paperwhite spot. The ad — which featured a man and woman both waiting for their husbands to join them on the beach — was remarkable for its matter-of-fact handling of the subject. "It wasn’t a shock-and-awe moment, but it was profound," Warren said.

That moment represents an equally profound shift in perception of what comprises a family, according to a global study by Havas Worldwide. Havas in January released the results of "The New Dynamics of Family," which demonstrated ­that same-sex marriage (along with interracial marriage and other departures from tradition) is gaining momentum — and appeal for big brands.

Alla Gonopolsky, planning director for Havas Worldwide New York, said the study clearly showed that across the 20 countries the agency surveyed, respondents aged 18 to 34 are far more accepting to LGBT families than those over the age of 55.

In the face of those international trends, the scales are tipping decisively in favor of inclusion. For brands that want to win the loyalty of a new generation of customers, representing all the permutations of "family" is becoming the smart way to get their messages out.

"When you look at the data, you see the stats leaning toward acceptance," Gonopolsky said. "Brands trying to convey a message or tell a story, they want to reflect the world and society we’re living in. When they’re using all sorts of different types of couples and ethnicities, it doesn’t feel forced."

Embracing the "total market"

Omnicom’s Warren concurred that diversity in campaigns "is about recognizing the mass market, which is now diverse. Over 50% of all babies born in the US are multicultural — that’s why we talk about the ‘total market,’ not the ‘general market.’ "

"The most well-crafted ads are those that cross cultures and orientations," Warren said. In fact, failure to account for diversity usually betrays a gap in diverse talent on the part of the client and agency, she said. "When you see bad creative or creative that’s exclusive, it’s a talent issue, not a creative issue."

Stephen Macias, senior vice president and LGBT practice lead with MWW in Los Angeles, agreed the tectonic shift among brands reflects deeper changes in the cultural landscape. The new generation of campaigns is "less of a way of singling us out and more of including us into the American landscape."

What’s more, Macias said, marriage equality and support for LGBT families is intrinsically connected to other celebrations of diversity within the advertising industry and beyond. "When the president of the United States came out for marriage equality, he did an enormous thing for our community. "

Macias pointed to Coretta Scott King’s support for LGBT rights to draw an explicit connection between the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the empowerment of LGBT Americans in recent decades.  "The simple but brave act of coming out in the face of discrimination has been a game-changer," he said.

Nevertheless, there’s more work to be done, Macias said. "We see through American history that culture takes a considerable amount of time to catch up with changes. I don’t think this is the end of the chapter of what it looks like to have to inclusive marketing — I think it’s the start of a long and exciting and complicated road. "

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