Three lessons to help brands cut through the rainbow during Pride

There are a lot of rainbows out there, so like any good drag queen will tell you, you have to go big or go home.

I recently met a young grad who was excited at the prospect of getting into advertising. In their mind, it offered the chance to make the world a better place. 

Now, we all know the ratio of time spent saving the world versus, say, increasing the occasion frequency of soup is pretty firmly in soup’s favour. I’m not shocked that this grad thought it was the other way around.

We saw a showcase of great work from across the globe at Cannes. This year in particular, work for social good has been more prominent. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that that adland spends the majority of its timesheets working for social good, and does the ‘making clients money’ bit in its spare time. 

It’s no bad thing that agencies and clients want to use their thinking and budgets to do good. We’re all people after all, and it’s nice to be able to put something on the wall that we’re truly proud of, and gains the respect of our friends out of the bubble too. 

So when it comes to Pride, it’s not surprising that we’re now all jumping in feet first. A heady combination of the pink pound, creative reputation, Gen Z relevance and a chance for a positive social message have created the must-have brief. 

‘The Pride Brief’ is now appearing as an established spike on clients’ content calendars alongside Valentine’s Day, and agency teams are busy competitively pitching in proactive ideas.

Don’t worry, this article isn’t about to tell you whether your brand does or doesn’t have the right to get involved. Unless it’s a real paper over the cracks job, I’m personally of the opinion that the more brands get involved the better.

Instead, I’ve pulled together my three essential tips of how to do it better than your competitors. Because it’s no longer an open goal. Nowadays you have to cut through the rainbow clutter if you want to come to the party and make an impact. 

Lesson number one: nobody wants Mr. Po-Face at the party

Yes, LGBTQ+ rights and advocacy is a serious business. As Peter Tatchell said, Pride is a political march with a party atmosphere. But unless your brand has been a major activist in this space, it’s probably best to leave that side of it to Stonewall and instead do what brands do well – finding an angle with a bit of mischief that can make people laugh.

Going too worthy and serious and simply stating that you believe in equality for all will leave your ad or content a bit flat, with a resounding chorus of who are you?

Instead, I’d take a leaf out of Rowse’s hilarious Three Bears campaign, which managed to strike a chord with the bear community with a very big squeeze of mischief. Yes, there was backlash, like with all good ideas, but there were a lot of people in the community who loved it, especially those who didn’t work in advertising and didn’t have a creative agenda. 

Or take this year’s World Cup campaign from Paddy Power where they have turned Russia’s team into unlikely LGBTQ+ activists by pledging money to support LGBTQ+ charities for every Russian goal scored. More funny and memorable than a message of support. And more impact too.  

Lesson number two: Don’t turn up to the party empty handed

Who doesn’t love a good ‘activation’ at their party? Last time I went to a party I was desperate for a nice bit of branded poly board and touch screen.

Not. If you want to do something at Pride, it’s best to bring something of real value that will actually make people’s experience even more enjoyable.

In Tel Aviv recently, I saw a rare thing indeed for a Pride march: people queuing up to partake in a branded experience. It was a giant rainbow wall created from thousands of condoms that you could take your Insta-selfie in front of, before peeling off a johnny for later. 

Or a project that I worked on with the Army – Pride camo paint. We reframed a classic army symbol – camouflage cream – and created a new army branded product, Pride camo, that we handed out at Pride in London, making it easy for the crowds to add a slick of rainbow paint to their faces with military precision. 

Lesson number three: If you get dressed up, you have to commit to the theme

You can’t expect to stand out at any party by just adhering to the dress code. And Pride is no different. You can’t hope to just add a rainbow to your product or pop a same sex couple in your ad and hope you set the world on fire.

If you go rainbow (or un-rainbow in Skittles case), you have to go all the way. Do a proper product run like Skittles and get them on shelves in supermarkets. Had Skittles just done one promoted Facebook post, it would never have achieved the same impact. There are a lot of rainbows out there, so like any good drag queen will tell you, you have to go big or go home.

All that’s left to say is Happy Pride. It’s a fierce world out there but hopefully these three lessons will help your brands not just turn up, but turn some heads as well.

Matthew Waksman is the planning director at Karmarama

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