I was delighted to take Bad Marketing out on the road to speak at the Proud Experiences event this week. The conference focused on safe travel for the LGBTQ+ community, and I took part in a PR & Marketing bootcamp panel discussion. Naturally I was asked for a bad marketing example, and this is the one I shared… In the run up to the Pride in London celebrations in June 2017, organisers ran a campaign asking Londoners to send in their LGBTQ+ stories, and had commissioned artists to turn them into a collection of posters. These artworks were also shared on social media with the #LoveHappensHere hastag. Many of the artworks had a nice sentiment. Phrases like ‘I’m a straight man with gay pride’. An empowering statement for the community’s allies. And some were a little more risqué. But it was the “Being homophobic is soooo gay” line that really rankled – and the media made sure the organisers knew about it. The Gay Times stated that “the use of the word ‘gay’ as a pejorative is certainly something that shouldn’t be happening in 2017”. The story was picked up by numerous other gay titles. And Twitter agreed, too. “Why is London Pride all about straight people?” asked one user – suggesting that Pride had missed the point of what the celebration is all about. Organisers had to act quickly, and released the following statement, while removing the offending images. “It is clear we misjudged the content of some of the messages in this poster series, undermining the individuality, importance, and dignity of the LGBT+ community. This was never our intention, and we are genuinely sorry to have played any part in something that appears to devalue our own community, and have removed these four images from our campaign.”
What does good look like?
As Campaign Live put it, it was the “biggest own-goal at this year’s pride” and that “missteps like this open the door to criticism about who Pride is for, and should have been better thought through.” I’m sure we can all see where they were going with this campaign, and it’s well intentioned target – and in many other scenarios this might have been a more effective campaign. But the social, cultural and political history makes this more complicated – and Pride is all about giving people a feeling of safety, community and a place to ‘raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and campaign for the freedoms that will allow them to live their lives on a genuinely equal footing’ – Pride in London. The key lessons to learn here – particularly with social or activism marketing – is to always keep an eye on your objectives, keep the language acceptable, and aim your campaigns at your target audience.