Is there blood in your media spend?

ACT+’s Executive Briefing provided the industry with active ways to be an ally and make true strides towards Trans+ inclusion

Georgie Moreton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


Which hate crime has your ad campaign funded?

Is there blood in your media spend?

Does that make you feel uncomfortable?

These three uncomfortable, yet urgent questions for marketing leaders was at the top of the agenda at the Allies Coming out for Trans+ (ACT+)’s Executive Briefing.

Marty Davies (she/they), Founder of Smarty Pants consultancy and Joint CEO of Outvertising, shone a light on the unarguable correlation between the 170% increase in media stories about trans people and the 110% increase in hate crime.

A toxic media ecosystem funded by advertising is fuelling hate. Pointing to the brutal murder of Brianna Ghey to underline the real-world impact hate has and encourage advertisers to break the cycle, Davies’ questions might cause discomfort. Yet they also provide an actionable way for media buyers to engage in meaningful allyship to support Trans+ people. “Buying dirty attention harms society,” says Davies.

At ACT+’s Executive Briefing, speakers provided the industry with actionable ways to be an ally to the trans+ community at a moment in time when allyship is more important than ever.

Allyship is active

Asad Dhunna, Founder & CEO of The Unmistakables and Nadya Powell, Founding Partner at Utopia kicked off by underlining the power of the collective to drive meaningful change. Allies Coming Out for Trans+ (ACT+) has been formed by Creative Equals, Outvertising, Smarty Pants, The Unmistakables and Utopia and calls for better support of the trans+ community amongst Marketing and Communications leaders.

Dhunna notes that where gay people were once at the heart of negative media rhetoric, Trans people are the ones at the centre of political polarisation. “Important and urgent action is needed,” adds Powell.

She continues: “As allies, we can look at headlines and think that’s not nice but not think about the impact it is having on people's lives. Allyship is a privilege. It's easy to turn away but the most important thing is action.”

Rather than being a hero, being an ally is about listening and being receptive to the needs of those around you. Jan Gooding, Co-Chari at Utopia who was former chief at Stonewall while the organisation became Trans-inclusive, shared the importance of listening.

During her time working at Avivia, she befriended a Trans colleague whose experiences with bullying enraged her, yet instead of just immediately taking on the bullies, she realised it was more important to listen to the needs of Trans colleagues. Then decide on the most helpful course of action with their needs and wants front and centre. In this case, the employee in question was happier to move and carry on in a new, safer environment. “Trans people know the dangers and the risks - it's not about being a saviour,” says Gooding.

Platform and pay talent

A panel session featuring Nadya Powell, Founding Partner at Utopia, Kerrie Braithwaite, Project Director at McCann Demand, Jude Guaitamacchi, TEDx Speaker and Founder & Director of Trans Solidarity Alliance and Victoria Rowland, Director of Allies, Ambassadors and Advisors at Trans in the City underlined the importance of championing, platforming and paying talent. Trans+ talent are currently losing opportunities and organisations are unwilling to invest in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. The panel discussed the importance of being active and showing meaningful support against a backdrop of polarisation.

Braithwaite discussed businesses' over-reliance on employee resource groups, calling for more proactive action and active allyship. While Guaitamacchi pointed out the importance of education and of educating ourselves before looking to others to do the work for us. Braithwaite urged the industry to pay talent and external speakers rather than expecting people to do the work for free, stressing that training is important but not a single solution.

Braving backlash

Author, actress and activist, Charlie Craggs bravely shared her personal experience with hate crime. She shared that, unlike other forms of hate, Trans+ hate is so widely accepted that it shows up in her real life. Hate thrives publically in the comment sections under her articles,  not just her inbox.

With humour and compassion, she bravely shared her lived experience. Sharing how Trans+ people are trans+ every single day, brands who choose to support the community or run campaigns with Trans people at the core, should not simply pull their campaigns if the response isn’t exactly as they’d like it. They must stand by their message every day.

Creative Equal’s strategy for dealing with backlash urges brands to think about whether or not they have a right to play in the space before running a campaign. They then suggest ensuring senior leadership buy in, preparing for potential backlash and then sticking by your values despite any hate that might come. These were all steps taken by Eleonore Murauer, Global Brand Director for Durex when the brand created their Trans+ inclusive campaign which meant that they were able to authentically speak to Trans+ people.

Similarly, ​​Kenny Ethan Jones shared that brands that engage the most authentically with Trans+ talent and consultancy are those that have already done the work and reach out for validation and advice rather than education. Jones explained that a smooth process is transparent, curious and open with a focus on relationships. “We need open communication at all points,” says Jones.

Closing the session with a focus on action, Cassius Naylor, Co-Director of Advocacy at Outvertising, stressed that meeting this challenge is everyone's job. Naylor explained: “Everyone can have a meaningful impact in their own way and in their own role.” Whether that's by empowering employees, braving backlash or scrutinising media plans to break a cycle of hate, allyship can take many meaningful forms.

Related Tags

Inclusion LGBTQIA Allyship