MAC Cosmetics uses two brand films to improve understanding of trans community

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The brand released More Than T and Trans102 to celebrate Pride and portray transgender people with humanity and nuance.

MAC Cosmetics has rolled out two brand films to celebrate Pride and talk about the transgender community in a nuanced way.

The brand developed a PSA series called Trans102, which was created in partnership with lifestyle website Refinery29, and a documentary called More Than T, which aired on Showtime last week. Both were produced by MAC Cosmetics and its philanthropic arm, the MAC AIDS Fund.

Both projects were led by Silas Howard, who was the first trans director of Amazon’s series Transparent. Creative communications agency Praytell was the "nerve center for the whole thing," said agency founder and CEO Andy Pray.

He explained that the branded content started as a way to follow up on MAC’s 2014 film It’s Not Over, a documentary about young millennials living with or affected by HIV or AIDS.

"As we’ve seen in the content space over the last couple years, brand-driven documentaries and films are becoming increasingly impactful ways for brands to use their microphone to champion causes that are meaningful to them," said Nancy Mahon, SVP for global corporate citizenship and sustainability at MAC parent Estee Lauder.

Pray added that the films aim to describe the trans community without preaching to the audience.

"The audience is people like me," the agency’s founder and CEO said, acknowledging he’s a person who tries to be culturally sensitive but is far from perfect. "As an agency, the entry point was...we can educate in a way that’s thought-provoking, funny, and real without being finger-waggy."

Celebrating Pride Month, Trans102 has amassed nearly 2.3 million views across the website’s social media channels, with nearly 30,000 shares and 20,000 engagements.

"It’s pretty clear that an infomercial doesn’t fly," Mahon said. "At MAC, we always ask ourselves, ‘What does MAC bring to the party? What’s missing?’ For us, it was a trans perspective."

The MAC AIDS Fund also provided $1.3 million in funding to trans organizations across the country working in housing, job readiness, health, and other areas. The philanthropic arm of MAC has given more than $450 million to HIV/AIDS, LGBT, and women’s initiatives since 1994.

Asked about the political climate given the Trump administration's stance on LGBT rights, Mahon said, "We’ve definitely made progress. The important thing is to remember where we’ve come from."

"That’s true for MAC as well. MAC is a joyful, playful cosmetic company that’s always believed beauty comes in many shades, genders, and ages," she explained. "Good news is more people are aware of that more than ever."