LGBT Is the New Black – why big names are backing the LGBT movement

Ulster Bank’s advert.

Recently I stumbled across this advertisement for Ulster Bank on Kevin Street. ‘Déjà vu,’ I thought to myself. I was forced into believing I was standing back on George’s Street, gazing up at that awful, distasteful mural of two chaps hugging one another. How terribly unromantic. Two men being romantic — how inalienable to think. No, I jest. Breda may have thought this, but not me.

What Joe Caslin’s image did, for example, was inflect a piece of art that was distinct to the time it was created in: a piece that cracked the surface and opened discussion in the run-up to the marriage equality referendum. This mural made the right-wing naysayers jolt with excitement. It made the LGBT community warm with joy and inclusivity — but this was a very fleeting moment, for this joy and inclusivity diminished and a bud of curiosity began to grow in its place. A curiosity that came forward when large companies started being LGBT inclusive in their adverts.

Are companies and big brands reflecting the society in which we live, or are they merely jumping on the bandwagon to capitalise on their brand image?

It’s a difficult concept to wrap your head around, right? Inclusivity, regardless of the motive, is something to revel in for the likes of the LGBT community. But is it? Orange is not the new black — gay is the new black. It’s a silly thing I’ve come across. Identifying a gender or a sexuality as something more than the heteronormative is conducive to a negative. It’s further separation and exclusion, ironically. Have the big names built upon this new black? Or is it a genuine goal to dismantle the heteronormativity of society to reflect the new liberal principles in place in the western world? I want it to be the latter, I really do. But I can’t help but think there’s more to it. I can’t help but think ‘the new black’ is really just that, and something in which large multinationals are vomiting up for mere subservience to the understanding of ‘the new black’ as the cool thing. It separates it from the right thing to do, right?

Although I’d like to keep her country and stick to Irish advertisements, the attempt would be frugal, as the research shows just that; there is very little. In 2013, for example, Coca Cola cut this same-sex marriage scene from the Irish market.


A Coca Cola spokesperson responded saying ‘the reason this was changed for Ireland is while civil partnership for gay people is legal, gay marriage currently is not. We wanted each ad to be relevant and valid for its own market.’ Which makes you second guess the LGBT-inclusivity in the advertisement industry; it’s about marketing not what is morally right in the eyes of the brand, but what is relevant — in Coca Cola’s perspective, anyway. And look, same-sex marriage is currently legal in Ireland, and you’re already begin to see ‘relevant’ same-sex couples being advertised. This is ‘The New Black’ I was hitting at. LGBT is now ‘relevant’ in Ireland.

The Guinness advert is probably the most believable, truly societal-reflecting advert in Ireland in dealing with coming-out. It’s real, raw, and impactful.


In dealing personally with Thomas, it did a lot: it deconstructed stereotypical attributes about gay men and it reinforced sportsmanship as something more expansive than simply on-the-pitch  teamwork. Guinness didn’t need to roll down the rainbow flags and pole-dancing drag queens. It relied on very other real aspects of LGBT, reflecting different matters of society in quite a beautiful way.


Ray-Ban’s ‘Never Hide’ campaign.

Ray-Ban released seven photographs across print and online platforms to promote their 75th anniversary. The cam
paign espoused the slogan ‘Never Hide’ — Ray Ban asked people to leave real-life inspiring stories on their webpage. The best were reimagined in each decade of Ray Ban’s existence. This really isn’t rose-tinting anything about LGBT; promoting courage and inclusivity whilst staying true to society and reflecting a real-life event in the life of an anonymous LGBT couple.


Tiffany’s engagement advert.

Tiffany’s launched an engagement campaign last year, promoting two real-life New Yorkers embarking on their engagement. Two guys positioned quite lovingly in a gray-scale photograph; but done with a certain regality and effortlessness. Really nothing much else to it. It doesn’t seem to be in anyway exclusive — and it hasn’t taken two actors to pose. Once again, however, weddings are ‘relevant’ for same-sex couples and they’re being advertised.

However, it just strikes me here as an effective marketing campaign. There’s gays getting married — we’ll go make more rings! I guess that’s inclusion in our unending capitalist world. Tiffany’s marketed toward the LGBT community because it made absolute sense to. Coca-Cola didn’t because … gays don’t drink Coke?

These are only some of the large brands that have advertised with including same-sex couples in them. Doritos, Oreo, and Campbell’s have all recently dived into marketing without exclusive heteronormative campaigns. Absolute Vodka and Smirnoff have also been longstanding allies to the LGBT community. However, there’s two things that are amiss. One: advert campaigns are predominantly white gay males; with the most famous adverts not reflecting bi-racial couples or lesbian couples (but this argument remains for another day). Two: one letter, although it has had much coverage and exposure in the last two years, has fallen under the harmful scope of advertisement campaigns.

Society, unfortunately, is finding Trans* a lot more difficult than the simple two letters of LGBT (I say two letters, because bi-erasure is very much alive). And this comes back to the concept of ‘The New Black’ — or as Coca Cola so delicately put it, ‘relevant and valid’ — although Transgender has seen a lot of relevance and exposure, it’s still not taken seriously, and advertisement agendas are destructively adding to this.

So the question whether companies and large brands are reflecting society or just jumping on the bandwagon  comes full circle when Trans* rights are considered. However, they are doing neither in respect of this; not reflecting an inclusive society, and jumping on the bandwagon but leaving a trail of demeaning, damaging and negative messages in their wake instead.

In terms of the majority of LG-central adverts; any inclusivity is inclusivity, right?

Or are we really willing to object against it? Isn’t this what we’ve been working toward — equality? Or is it just exploitative because LGBT ‘is the new fad’? as the Superbowl 50 has so globally announced to us. For me; any inclusive awareness is important, regardless of any underpinning motives of businesses.


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