Virtual Pride Month: Adland shares the ups and downs of no in-person events this June

"The queer community has always been a creative one. I look forward to seeing how we all rise to the occasion and bring that creative spirit into the digital space."

The country is slowly beginning to re-open after three months of shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the understandably cautious transition means most in-person June Pride events and parades won’t take place as they usually do. 

This doesn’t mean, however, that Pride month will go by unnoticed. Brands, agencies and nonprofits have the chance to figure out how they can innovate in these unusual times. We asked adland insiders to weigh in on the matter.

Does a virtual pride month - a digital reset of sorts - present the opportunity to make pride more meaningful and impactful than ever before? 

Kate Wolff, Co-Chair of Programming and Operations, Do the WeRQ; Founder and CEO, Lupine Creative

What probably feels like a year of restricted connection may actually boost access and representation in new ways for Pride.

With 500 (and counting) Pride celebrations worldwide canceled or postponed due to the pandemic, the LGBTQIA+ community will be confined to their homes during what is supposed to be a month-long celebration of their community, love and fight for equality.

Historically, our community has relied on physical locations and city Pride events to pull together the full LGBTQIA+ spectrum. But even those physical moments come with barriers and separations of their own. And those barriers have included ease of access to a location, a topic or theme focused on a specific subset of LGBTQIA+ culture, etc. All these barriers for the in-person experience dilute and divide larger community pride.

But this year, we see a tremendous opportunity to bridge these locational and cultural barriers through digital, easily accessible and centralized Pride events. This dynamic opens the opportunity for the world to see the best of local Pride – in places like Chicago, L.A., Rio, Athens, Berlin, and beyond. And these are all to be experienced from our living rooms. I also hope this access sparks a fuller spectrum of representation both within the programming slates as well as the tune-in of audiences. This will make not only for a celebratory Pride month, but create a true reflection of the community's vibrancy, authenticity and power.

The queer community has always been a creative one. I look forward to seeing how we all rise to the occasion and bring that creative spirit into the digital space. Oh, and Happy Pride!

Andrea Diquez, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi NY 

I hope I’m wrong but I can’t help but think that a virtual pride month won’t be the best yet. We’re living through a time of isolation, and the things that make pride month the wonderful time of year it is, are the feelings of connection and togetherness that many of the events bring to the LGBTQ+ community. With that said, I think we will see a powerful push to use digital platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Zoom to feel a sense of community and celebrate. At Saatchi NY, for example, we’re very excited to host a virtual celebration, but I don’t think it’ll beat the fantastic one we had last year IRL.

Laurel Rossi, Chief Partnerships Officer, Organic 

While core celebrations like the pride parades and parties will certainly be missed, I think that we can work together to make this pride month the most inclusive and impactful of them all. I foresee an increased focus on the content that individuals create themselves on Instagram and TikTok, with a decrease in some of the hollow corporate branding and sponsorship programs of year’s past. When brands do engage people, they should harness the power and personal nature of social media, to make their participation in virtual celebrations feel more human. This year will work best if brands simply act as facilitators during pride, and let their audiences do the rest.

Jason Esposito, Director, RQ

PRIDE is much more than a parade, and this shift to virtual will highlight the incredible impact the community has among themselves. PRIDE signifies an incredibly important part of acceptance and celebrating our true selves. The most important things we will experience won't be brands covering their products in rainbow flags, but those brand's who will bring the community together in a way that extends the fundamental purpose PRIDE was established in 1970 -- the advocacy of self-affirmation, dignity, equality of the LGBTQ community. 

Take for example HBO (an RQ client). I have to bring up their amazing efforts this year with the LGBTQ community. HBO and their Human by Orientation initiative are the official sponsors of AIDS/LifeCycle this year, which is currently happening. They have committed to continue supporting the ride and the mission even though it can't actually happen as a physical ride this year. HBO is one of those brands that really said 'we are in this together and we are going to figure out a way to bring in the community, get the word out and to get people to donate.' In addition to making a generous donation themselves, they're using resources, talent and presence to help something that is so important to the LGBTQ community, Los Angeles LGBTQ Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Céline Craipeau, Marketing & Strategic Planning Senior Director, JellyFish

One of the key challenges with digitalizing Pride this year will be ensuring our voices are heard outside of our usual LGBTQ+ environment, which is more easily done when we stand up for ourselves in the center of Paris, passing both gay-friendly and conservative neighborhoods. To ensure that level of visibility, this year, I’d love to see our fights publicized in mainstream media. Social networks can have a major impact as well especially if algorithms are adjusted to prioritize Pride content. On social media, videos are a great way to highlight meaningful Pride conversations taking place within the community. I hope digital celebrations will touch people from all backgrounds around the globe and generate a respectful and meaningful dialogue. The digitalization of Pride can serve as a chance to broaden discussions around equality and to shape the path for a new kind of activism that will focus on the respect of human dignity above all else.

Kevin Hunt, SVP, Global Marketing, SpotX

Virtual Pride month creates a never-before-possible moment to unite queer people from around the world. Being sheltered-in-place, with access to CTV or mobile devices, gives participants an intimate, front row seat—something unattainable at crowded public events. For those who might not feel safe being their authentic selves in public, this digital reset provides an inclusive environment for a special connection as well.

This incredible moment allows civic leaders, activists, role models, and celebrities to speak as one to the community en masse. It creates a powerful forum to address the most important global issues and celebrate the tremendous acceptance and success the community has built since the Stonewall riots in NYC, Gene Comptons in San Francisco, and countless other moments around the world, led by minorities and marginalized people. It’s also an opportunity to discuss all the work that’s left to be done—where living one's authentic life can cause great danger to themselves and their families.

Virtual Pride means that in many cases, global events will be recorded and streamed in their entity for the first time, giving viewers the chance to experience events they would have otherwise been unable to attend. And with the popularity of live streaming on social platforms, it will drive new moments to connect that never existed before.

It’s possible that this new format will be here to stay forever, and I, for one, look forward to seeing how we innovate Pride Month for years to come. 

Jim Misener, Principal and President, 50,000feet

As we approach this year’s season of Pride, many are asking what might be lost and what else might be gained as we move our celebrations from the daylight of our streets to the blue light of our screens. As with every change brought about by the pandemic, we stand to learn a lot. 

Pride is an occasion defined by building visibility, community and solidarity; which, in many ways, make it the complete antithesis and the perfect antidote to our present times. What other worldwide celebration asks us to come together to celebrate the wonder and joy of our humanity and to marvel in the beauty of our diversity. Among the many hard lessons that we have learned during the pandemic, one of the most important is how those of us who live on the margins of acceptance--the discriminated and the disenfranchised—are most at risk and suffer the greatest. How we come to reimagine Pride can be an important moment for all of us. 

As we recast our celebrations from the physical to the virtual, we should make the most of the promise of technology and our own creativity to make meaningful—and perhaps even stronger and more enduring—connections. This is our chance to rethink and reimagine how to extend and enrich this rite of Summer that recognizes the hard-fought recognition and acceptance of many and to lessen the hard line divisions that continue to ail us. Let all of our faces be seen, our hands be counted and our voice be heard.

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