Monday, February 19, 2018

Thanks to advertising

The video above is an ad for New Zealand telecommunications company Spark. It appeared in Facebook earlier this month, and I thought it was just a social media promotion. Then, I saw the ad on TV—not once, but several times, the most recent just tonight. And, as so many of these have been recently, it’s pretty good.

I didn’t share the ad here because at the time I didn’t think it would be on TV. Instead, I shared an article on my personal Facebook about the ad that talked about Spark’s response to some anti-gay bigotry. I said at that time:
This [the Newshub article] is an interesting story for a lot of reasons. First, that a large NZ corporation is backing the LGBT+ communities of New Zealand—I’m old enough to remember a time corporations ran as fast as they good in the opposite direction. Second, this is NOT unusual for big corporations in NZ. Third, bigotry is alive and well in NZ, as this story demonstrates, but so do the comments on the Newshub post, too.

Still, times are changing. Corporations like Spark see the new realities of New Zealand society. The bigots don’t, but they do show us why we’re not farther along and more evolved: They’re in the way. Sure, much of their whinging and moaning is irrational, illogical, inchoate nonsense, but they also show us their fears. That gives us the chance to talk to their fears, not just laugh at them, swear at them, or belittle them (though sometimes we all must do one or more).

This sort of thing gives us the chance to learn better ways to deal effectively with our erstwhile adversaries. We can’t move forward with an anchor holding us back. Incidents like this will help us learn how to bring our adversaries with us—if we’re willing to learn to do better.
The ad is intended, as such ads always are, to help create good feelings about Spark. Of course, to some extent all advertising has that as a purpose, so this isn’t at all unusual. It’s also becoming more common for ads to include LGBT+ people in them, though not always as the feature, of course. In this case, they’re promoting an online service, and, as they say in their YouTube description:
A little moment of connection can stand for something huge in someone’s life. So this Pride, we wanted to say thanks to the LGBTQI+ community for helping NZ become a more accepting, loving and respectful nation.
There are plenty of people—including some LGBT+ people, and not just bigots—who hate this sort of advertising, seeing it as pandering or tokenism. Maybe it is that, at least a little. But such ads also help. By including us in their vision of New Zealand, they’re helping us to BE a part of New Zealand in reality, too. Because we are, of course. We also have a right to see ourselves reflected in pop culture, including TV ads, so that LGBT+ kids growing up can see people just like them on TV, something that was impossible until very recent years.

Part of the reason we’ve advanced so far in achieving full acceptance is that people KNOW us now, and they can see for themselves that we’re not the scary demons our adversaries try to portray us as. TV shows, movies, pop songs, and advertising have all helped move this along, in a sense reinforcing the decades of work by ordinary people working hard and anonymously to make the world a better place for us all.

The video above is an ad. It may seem unimportant. But for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, ads like this are the living embodiment of another Spark ad slogan: Little can be huge. We should never lose sight of how huge small things have been in getting us where we are today. They may even turn out to be the thing that help keep us all from moving backward.

And, it’s a sweet ad.

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