Inclusive advertising can yield shocking results


I’ve been marketing media and advertiser brands all over the world for over 20 years, including launching Logo, the first-ever 24/7/365 LGBT media brand. From 30-second commercials in the golden, pre-digital days (looking back I call those “the easy days”), to today, leading social media and VR projects, scrapping it out for microscopic millennial attention spans. Nothing prepared me or my team, however, for what happened on a recent campaign for online travel company, Orbitz. After launching the social media video campaign, we watched as thousands of Facebook comments started in a rapid-fire chain:

“I need you to know that I never fall for marketing gimmicks but I will absolutely use Orbitz now. Because you’re fabulous and I love you.”

“Never before in my 69 years have I seen a commercial I actually loved.”

“That was amazing! Forward this to Pepsi to tell them how to properly promote America.”

“Best travel commercial ever!!!! We really need this right now!”

And every five minutes, more of the same. And then more…. And more.

You might assume that the brand team was anonymously writing these gushing comments, but no one would dare write an insider comment filled with that much adoration… I mean, who would believe it was real? But it was happening.

To generalize, the overall feedback was this: In this world where everything seems two-sided, thank you for reminding us that the world is round, and if we get out and see it, we might just have fun again. Thank you for embracing diversity. And, as a consumer, I believe in a brand that believes in this ideal.

The intention of every marketing campaign, every bit of branded entertainment, is to connect with an audience in meaningful ways. I work with some of the smartest, most talented people in the business who do their jobs well. Still, we were taken with how deeply this campaign connected with people.

So, I’ve spent some time trying to dissect and process why this particular initiative activated its audience so intensely, so positively. We actually launched a bigger campaign on the exact same day, with celebrities, paid media across broadcast, Snapchat, and other social channels. And although it technically had more views and impressions, the comments and engagements were not as overwhelmingly positive as this Orbitz campaign.

Nothing in social is guaranteed, and even if you followed a checklist to a “t”, you might have different results. That said, one thing I see more often than ever before is that in the world of metrics and programmatic buying, we’re often forgetting some of the basics:

1) Work with authentic content creators. We’re fortunate to have partnerships with some of the most prolific entertainment content creators on the planet. For this project, we partnered with Todd Milliner and Sean Hayes’ production company, Hazy Mills, and they helped us give the brand team a gut-check on real entertainment value and what might alienate audiences.

2) Bring social influencers to a new party. Often, a marketer’s instinct is to simply have social stars do what they do, and then add in the brand. This is where the notion of influencer becomes tainted. We identified Randy Rainbow early-on, but rather than have Randy make one of his signature videos (which are hilarious, but polarizing), we integrated his talents, and that of his co-stars, to a different style of creative project. By doing something together, leveraging what each person does incredibly well, the message, concept, and celebrity talent blended seamlessly rather than feeling tacked on.

3) Inspire people by bringing unabashed entertainment to the mundane. Throughout our history, social and political unrest has been paired with a consumer increase in spending on entertainment. Audiences in stressful times are looking for escape or an affirmation that they are represented, are seen. With the Orbitz campaign, that meant identifying the most mundane (and often most annoying) part of travel, the TSA screening, and turning that into a musical.

4) Inclusivity doesn’t have to be exclusive. We were very careful to represent everyone in this campaign — from LGBT people, to those of various ages, abilities, religions and ethnicities. The message was positive, standing firm with the notion that diversity is what makes this world amazing. Get out and see it; you’ll be happy you did.

5) Stand for something you believe in. The problem with the Pepsi debacle was that they tried to represent standing for something while standing for nothing. You’ll always have support from consumers if you include a stand in your advertising, even if you’re just firm in your commitment to flexible returns or fresh ingredients. It doesn’t have to be political or partisan, but your audience needs to know that you have clear, core beliefs…because if you do, you make it easier for them to believe in you.

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