When Huntington Beach, California decided to remove the Pride flag from its city hall this year, Innocean’s LGBTQ employees felt the sting.
“One of them came to me, deflated, and asked if we could hang a big Pride flag from the building,” says Jason Sperling, the ad agency’s chief creative officer.
The answer was no, Sperling learned. The landlord who owns the building wouldn’t allow the flag, either. The agency decided it needed to fight back against the rainbow-squashing in a way that was bigger than conservative Orange County.
“Pride has been so quiet among brands this year, and many are walking away from celebrating Pride and supporting that community. Brands are turning their backs on that community when they need it the most,” he says.
And he says it’s part of the larger rise in censorship, book banning, language shaming and school curriculum changes happening all over the country.
“We have to fight back,” Sperling tells Marketing Daily. “We want everyone in our community to feel represented,”
The team contacted the Gilbert Baker Foundation, which honors the artist who created the flag in 1978. And it learned that more than 40 cities in the U.S. have decided to take down their Pride flags.
Working with the foundation and Tool of North America, it built an AR filter that allows people to plant the Pride flag where ever they want. Using a QR code on Instagram, Snap and soon, on TikTok, people can access the filter. It allows them to place the Pride flag, size it, move it and ultimately take a picture. It’s encouraging people to share the images on social media, using the #SaveTheRainbowFlag hashtag.
Sperling, who previously worked at Media Arts Lab, Meta Reality Labs and RPA, says the agency is still pursuing the idea of a banner on its building -- especially after learning that the landlord has accepted them in the past.
“We want to be positive. Of course, we don’t want to put out employees in jeopardy, and we know there are serious concerns about activism. And we don’t want to jeopardize our space, either.”
One workaround it expects to launch soon is a giant rainbow QR code.
“Now is not the time to play it safe,” he says. “We can’t be silent. The real answer is to find meaningful ways to be an ally, not just for our clients but for our agency brand, too.”