Cancel your pride campaign

If you're going to raise our flag, you best be ready to fight for it

As we begin the run up to Pride Month we’re already seeing the rainbow slowly emerging over some of our favourite brands; from Target’s Drag Queen Bird Decorative Figurine, to Walmart’s Fingerless Gloves Sleeve for Women Girls — it really is all starting to kick queer off! Heck, you can even already buy your rainbow-coloured false eyelashes, pride themed body butter and yassifying anti-cellulite serum and at CVS*1 and it’s not even June yet!

*1 Just a quick sidenote to mention CVS have backed and invested in Republican state senators Dawn Buckingham and Bryan Hughes, co-sponsors of SB1646, a bill that would ‘change the state’s child abuse law’ to make it a crime for parents to allow children to receive gender-affirming medical care.

Indeed, as we get closer to the month where simultaneously the LGBTQIA+ community is more visibly supported than ever, and at times exploited for profit, we’re seeing a trend emerge already; the Queer Community isn’t giving putting up with your sh*t this year.

Tolerance of rainbow washing is at its lowest point, due to the fact intolerance of the community is at its most vocal in some time

With 471 anti-LGBTQ+ bills being slammed through the American legislation system, media outlets almost constantly attacking the trans+ community, and a never-ending digital feed of hate from those just looking to ‘protect the children‘ it’s no wonder LGBTQIA+ folk are P’d off.  Along with all this, as we look to how the world of Queer marketing has gone recently, it doesn’t seem like people are in the spirit to grab their favourite beer and raise a glass to the marginalised folk who Pride month celebrates either. That’s right GOP favourite Bud Light*2 has made headline after headline for daring to partner with a trans person, and then Nike used the same trans person to sell some sports bras and women all over the world declared it an attack on their rights.

I think it’s fair to say after this there is some nervousness from all parties about accidentally (or not) putting LGBTQIA+ people under buses to get sales. No one wants that, and indeed the community doesn’t want to deal with more backlash in their own backyard.

*2 Another quick sidenote to say Bud Light’s parent company AB InBev donated nearly $500,000 to Republican candidates in the most recent campaign cycle. You know, the ones who are backing all those bills we mentioned earlier.

No, this Pride month, every brand thinking of running a campaign needs to seriously consider their role in a ‘culture war’ they maybe haven’t fully realised they’re in

Are you uplifting the community by donating to charities that support them? Or is the profit going to your shareholders? Are you paying Queer creators to make goods for Queer folk? Or have you just rebranded some stuff that still only exists in ‘men’s’ and ‘women’s’ sizes? Are you using influence to lobby against these horrendous bills? Or are you just interviewing your employees*3 for your Instagram feed?

*3 Especially if you work in a state like Florida where the people in your building are literally having their rights and medication ripped out of their hands.

Are you willing to keep acting as an ally, and activist come July? Or is this just another fleeting bar in your media plan?

Most importantly have you truly thought through where and when you will show up for the LGBTQIA+ community? Because if you create a campaign that is aiming to be inclusive and then run it on media channels where a lot of the editorial space is working to repress the rights of Queer and trans+ people then you’ve already failed*4.

*4 With groups like Stop Funding Hate, GLAAD, and Outvertising all giving resources and recommendations there is no excuse to get this particular piece of the puzzle wrong anymore.

This isn’t meant to be a rant, it’s meant to be advice

Please, show up, help out and make this July the most supportive, fantastic, all-embracing, Pride we’ve ever seen, just do it with purpose and understanding we’re not looking for visibility anymore, we need real change. Plus, it will still make you money I promise*5.

*In a study from 2021, LGBTQ+ people in the US held a combined buying power of approximately $1.4 trillion, and it would be a lie if I said I wouldn’t buy a rainbow bandana for my dog. I would, and I have, and I’ll do it again.

I want to make this very clear, I do not want to stop brands showing up for the LGBTQIA+ community, but if you are going to raise our flag, you’d best be ready to fight for it too.

Featured image: Ronê Ferreira / Pexels

Jamie June Hill, Creative Inclusivity Director at VMLY&R COMMERCE

Jamie June Hill (they/she) is a creative director with over a decade of experience, focussing on human-centered thinking and writing. Currently they specialize in making the world of marketing more inclusive, particularly through LGBTQIA+ and neurodivergent stories. They actively advocate for creative inclusion, sharing insights and empowering others through campaigns, thought pieces, workshops and talks.

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