Brands Are More Than Just Narrators – Creative Director Thoughts on Inclusivity
Q&A with Jordan Chlapecka, Creative Director, NY, Momentum Worldwide
What advice would you give to brands to ensure authentic representation of the LGBTQ+ community not only during Pride, but year-round?
My best advice to brands is to not be swayed by public reactions and stand firm with the community. I think what stings more in times of uncertainty—more than the rainbow logo timer that is set June 1 and ends July 1—is backing down from good ideas and intersectional opportunities. I have heard anecdotes from many creatives in the industry about amazing ideas, and even opportunities for positive representation, that were never executed because of fear of bad PR or backlash.
How can brands build a genuine connection with consumers and ultimately help build brand loyalty?
Start putting your money to work. Seriously. It’s so disenchanting to see brands speak from both sides of their mouths. Staying relevant should not be a month of activity or be undercut by how an organization spends their money. While an organization or company may say love is love, there are political forces that are threatening the lives of our queer and trans brothers and sisters. When brands are actively seeking relationships with consumers, they should realize that these consumers not only have their rights on the line, but their lives. Loyalty can be gained if you stand with and for us all. You cannot simply add the rainbow to a logo or merchandise and expect it to mean something. You also must plug that rainbow into a power source and charge it by doing meaningful good for the LGBTQ+ community.
What is a favorite pride month or LGBTQ+ focused campaign? Why?
We see a lot of social posts, but very few campaigns solely focused on Pride. It has become the next calendar-focused holiday and box to check, leaving the LGBTQ+ community unimpressed. A litmus test I use is that if you can easily switch out rainbows for hearts, i.e., Happy Pride for Happy Valentine’s Day, and the campaign will still function, it's not active enough.
A campaign that stands out this year is Tinder backing blood research. The initiative is seeking to overturn a blood ban/three-month deferment policy through Assessing Donor Variability and New Concepts in Eligibility (ADVANCE), a pilot study being conducted by Vitalant, OneBlood and the American Red Cross. They are searching for alternatives to the current deferral policy, which requires gay and bisexual men to go without sexual contact for three months before being considered eligible to donate. They are seeking users to get involved and take a simple survey while on the app.
This campaign in particular sheds light on a real issue that has been a stigma in the LGBTQ+ community for a while. It’s putting forth effort to help change the treatment of the community and dangerous stereotypes that have been perpetuated. It tackles a real issue, literally at the heart of a bad policy, that people are either uneducated on or don’t realize the stigma it creates.
Two years ago, calls for diversity and social justice reached an all-time high and brands were quick to renew commitments to these causes, which brands do you believe are still staying true to their DE&I commitments?
I think that LinkedIn has really been engaged with how to make their platform and ads more diverse and inclusive. They’ve done so by adding pronouns and making their ads increasingly more diverse.
I’d say that Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is also a guiding force in staying relevant and a force for change in DE&I. They act locally but make big splashes with their inclusion. They don’t hold back and don’t let naysayers shape the policy and issues they are seeking to change.
As the advertising industry are the narrators of culture and history, what’s your advice in encouraging and challenging brands to take risks and stay committed to an equitable future?
I believe that brands are more than just narrators. They are in our everyday lives and woven into the fabric of our shared culture. There is an opportunity for brands to connect directly with their consumers and shine lights on real issues facing LGBTQ+ communities to co-create a more equitable future. Brands have even more of an opportunity to be change-makers, given the current political environment in the United States and around the world. Money is currently carrying a lot of weight for change, and brands have dollars to spend. They should really look at where they put their effort and dollars to work. As rainbow dollars are finding their way into the marketplace, there is a magnifying glass on not only where brands are putting their voices, but on how they use that voice to help shape that future.
Jordan Chlapecka (He/him) is a Creative Director at Momentum Worldwide, residing in New York City. He works on American Express.