Voices

How my family should be better represented in advertising and why brands should listen up.

Don’t under-estimate the power of everyday representation and how much it matters, writes Kevin Tewis-Allen, Managing Director of Preen.

Kevin Tewis-Allen, Preen

Managing Director

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I’m a gay professional married man who has worked in the media, creative and the entertainment industry for 22 years. I have a beautiful (if not exhaustingly hard work) 2 year old son, Sawyer and a daughter, called Summer, on the way, due late July/early August.

The representation I crave for my children isn’t rainbow coloured at all, it isn’t splashed across charity t-shirts or a marketing ploy for famous FMCG brands. It’s in the small things. It’s in the normalising of two men or two women having a wholesome lifestyle with full-time careers with 2.4 kids, two Cavapoo dogs, and a few hundred epic tantrums - but enough about our working lives.

Going for Sunday roasts with both sets of grandparents who unconditionally love and embrace our new family, is incredible upon reflection. It wasn’t always this way. When I look back upon my own very difficult journey coming out as a bi-sexual/gay man in 1997.  Trust me, I'd much rather that year would have been 2007 or 2017, or indeed never. ‘My world’ just wasn’t ready to hear or accept my deeply private admission, and it's served me very little benefit from the admission.. 

Sunday roasts, for example, are for ‘traditional’ families within English life, but when two men arrive with a baby, the response is still quite frankly, ‘mixed’.  I’ve been confronted with face-to-face comments such as where’s the ‘Mum?’  ‘You can’t possibly replace the role of a mother’ - something which leading UK fertility clinics such as ours, fight very hard to dispel such draconian myths.

The representation I crave for my children isn’t rainbow coloured at all, it isn’t splashed across charity t-shirts or a marketing ploy for famous FMCG brands. It’s in the small things. It’s in the normalising of two men or two women having a wholesome lifestyle.

Kevin Tewis-Allen, Managing Director, Preen

Sawyer was born at 32 weeks and 4 days, and like most premature children, he had an entire set of enormous challenges to cope with on day one, as we stood by as distraught, helpless parents, hoping that our little miracle baby would somehow fight through.

Unlike other ‘normal full term’ pregnancies Sawyer suffered from severe silent reflux, which means feeding hurt his throat. What was evident on day one of his birth is that the NHS birthing plan and our NCT classes had not factored anything in for premature births, yet 5% of all UK babies don't make full term- that's a lot of early babies!

We were so fortunate because the unsung heroes of the NHS, NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) were there to handhold us, a new gay family, with such  clever techniques such as ‘Kangeroo care’ and brand new concept to us which blew my mind but created such a close bond. It soon became a clockwork routine and looking back I think we took for granted those 16 hour days in NICU, and being there with that team and our 4lb baby boy.

My family, Rachael our egg donor and her sister Leanne, our surrogate, have taken a very public approach to showcase to the world how surrogacy can be done in a different way, without the super costly agencies, and that extends to anyone who wants a child not just queer families. We all recognised that it was a much bigger issue from out-of-date hospital policies, straight NCT classes that have little relevance, public perceptions that were still locked in the 1960’s when being gay was illegal and also the lack of good quality, informed advertising with brands marketing communications (print, social media, Digital-Out-Of-Home and TV adverts).    

It’s in subtle moments on TV where no one bats an eyelid at a quick goodbye kiss between a same sex couple. It’s in the nuances and complexities of all relationships, that will matter most to our children, their careers and how we today are responsible and committed to changing the future perceptions of a single sex couple raising a family.

I am committed to better inform brands and agencies about how to approach the future of creative excellence and then advertising through more heartfelt and innovative ways.

Kevin Tewis-Allen, Managing Director, Preen

I joined Preen as their Managing Director back in March, and it has been a real joy to educate, accelerate and amplify new diversity values not just about being gay but women-in-business, black and brown representation and mental health. We’ve opened up a 360 degree forum about our values, recruitment and who we are and in return, all of my staff beliefs and their identities now have a much louder, and totally invested voice in industry, in their lives and the boardroom. 

My team's acceptance of me and my family has been incredibly touching, and my work, which has never been defined by my sexuality, continues to thrive, spearheading this slick, creative production company. 

Twinned with some major press outlets like the Sunday Mirror, Take-A-Break and the Daily Mail, Preen is on a journey to go back to the industry and champion key issues in business such as same sex families, and being at the top of your game commerically. I am committed to better inform brands and agencies about how to approach the future of creative excellence and then advertising through more heartfelt and innovative ways. 

So that said - I’m taking to the stage this year for the first time ever (for me!) on these subjects, as I want to try and dispel myths and show that two dads (or two mums!) can show the same amount of doting love to a child as any straight couple, and also run a kick-ass business, as a queer Managing Director. 

Guest Author

Kevin Tewis-Allen, Preen

Managing Director,

About

Kevin is Managing Director of Preen, a leading London production company. Kevin was the first strategist and entertainment director at UNILAD and VP of UNIDAYS. Over the past decade, he has created youth video content and campaigns for Samsung, Nike, Adidas, Vans, BooHoo, Pretty Little Thing to name a few. Preen create short, medium and long form content for brands, agencies and socially good causes. Clients include Northface, Marks & Spencer, ASOS, New Look, TUI, Clinique and SKY.

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