Creative Jaywing Pride

Pride: how brands are authentically approaching it this year

By ben marshall |



The Drum Network article

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June 22, 2022 | 5 min read

As Pride is back with a bang in 2022, Ben Marshall, creative director at Jaywing, talks rainbow-washing, sincerity and being proud of developing meaningful creative in financial services.

Jaywing provides considerations around rainbow-washing, authenticity and meaningful creative.

Jaywing provides considerations around rainbow-washing, authenticity and meaningful creative

In 2021 agencies and client-side teams were challenged by the ongoing pandemic. For many that had invested in sponsorships as a means of aligning themselves with customer values, the cancelation of events saw the emergence of new tactics and more performance-led activity to attract new business.

Much discussion has occurred about balancing brand purpose and marketing performance; data tells us that today’s consumers do like it when brands stand up for and support a cause, but the functional touchpoints that directly benefit them (such as offers) supersede their purchase choices over a company’s purpose.

Unsurprisingly, the stakeholder group that purpose matters most to is employees, as they are living a brand’s promise – both through their interactions with customers and their own relationship with the company as an employee.

Insincerity leads to scrutiny

In a world where companies, governments and society are called out daily on green-washing, rainbow-washing and other whitewashing tactics, acts of performative allyship and their reputational impact have been proven to hit share prices and the bottom line. This scrutiny leads to media headlines highlighting brand hypocrisy, and in some cases accusations of trauma capitalism as an act of capitalizing on the struggle and traumatic experiences of a minority or socially-oppressed group.

The financial services industry plays a fundamental and instrumental role in the everyday lives of people across the world. While there is no doubt that financial services and products have critical benefits to consumers, the industry’s reputation, which has always sparked critique and debate, has not recovered from the global financial crisis. Meanwhile, corporate stances on ever-shifting conversations around gender equality, diversity, inclusion and social equity have an ongoing effect on employees. Melding purpose with products in financial services is First Direct’s specialty, having won multiple awards and citations for excellent customer and employee relationships.

Not just lip service

First Direct recognizes that everyone is unique and therefore we are all facing unique challenges. Employees are supported with practical allyship through multiple internal niche networks collectively focused on creating a more equitable workplace, all sitting under its Inclusion umbrella. This includes True Colors for LGBTQ+ employees; Embrace, set up to support people from different ethnic minorities, cultures and religions; and Ability, which supports people with both visible and non-visible disabilities.

First Direct’s True Colors network supports and educates people from the community and beyond on LGBTQ+ issues. Depending on which studies you read, around 80% of the community have stated that lockdowns had negatively affected their mental health. As a long-standing sponsor of Leeds Pride, when it was canceled again in 2021, First Direct wanted to continue its legacy of supporting the LGBTQ+ community and focus on employees who are part of the community. Silence on issues from companies for 11 months of the year makes for cynical audiences internally and externally, so our solution needed to be as authentic as the True Colors network itself and stand the test of time.

True Colours shining through at First Direct

We’ve worked with First Direct for over 20 years, so we knew their people would relish the opportunity to support each other. Through a series of candid conversations around gender, sexuality, relationships and lockdown, we took a sensitive look at the lives of those who work at the business. While everyone’s story is different, some themes were consistent – the toll circumstances took on their mental health, how meaningful the camaraderie of the True Colours network was to them and what it meant to be able to talk about their experiences in a judgment-free supportive environment.

By giving members of the True Colours network a platform to talk about the real-life challenges they have lived through in their words, authenticity shines. The role of Jaywing was to capture their story in the most authentic way possible and help First Direct open people’s eyes to everyday LGBT+ realities. But even we were taken aback by the rawness of what we captured. We discovered a group of people prepared to open up about their own deeply emotional experiences and so secure in the support and practical allyship they received in the workplace during hard times.

Capturing conversations of lasting impact

The ripple effects of this project deeply touched the team at Jaywing, reinforcing how proud we are to have a client that lives and breathes practical allyship. As Pride 2022 will soon be upon us, we will inevitably encounter fresh examples of corporate rainbow-washing. Many of us will be asked by clients to create campaigns that do just that. Before we take that step, we need to ask: is it sincere? Is it true allyship? Or is it lip service?

Undoubtedly our experience with First Direct has shown us that on sensitive issues, sincerity matters. We were taken aback by the rawness of the stories, and are extremely grateful to all who took part.

Creative Jaywing Pride

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At Jaywing, we’ve made it our mission to help clients establish concrete foundations in a world of shifting sands. As a data-powered integrated agency, we bring together the best minds in data intelligence, creative engagement and channel performance to uncover unique insights that enable smarter outcomes. The result? Better performing, effective solutions that create certainty, maximise opportunity and eliminate chance.

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