Carling rebuffs claim it 'chickened out' over trans woman in TV ad

Trans representation 'cut out' in edit, PrideAM says.

Carling: Stewart disagrees with PrideAM's criticism
Carling: Stewart disagrees with PrideAM's criticism

A group lobbying for greater LGBT+ representation in ads has criticised the editing of an eight-minute Carling documentary down to a 30-second TV ad for diluting the representation of a trans football coach.

However, PrideAM’s claim that the beer brand "chickened out" is disputed by the coach herself, who described it as "unfair", while it was also rebuffed by Carling and its ad agency, Havas London.

The work was released in March as part of the "Made local" campaign and focused on Black Country Fusion football club, which was set up by chairwoman Skye Stewart in 2016 because there were no clubs that were inclusive for LGBT+ people in the Midlands.

PrideAM, in a panel review of recent work with an LGBT+ focus, praised the eight-minute film for its depiction of a team with a variety of sexual orientations being coached by a trans person.

However, the panel was disappointed that the edited TV ad did not make the latter fact clearer and concluded that it was a "missed opportunity" for trans representation.

Richard Miles, creative director at Therapy and PrideAM member, said: "When will the industry be brave enough to follow through with their creative and not chicken out at the 11th hour?

"For a brand as major as Carling to embrace trans representation is pivotal to pushing towards acceptance, but to then cut it from the edit most people will see meant it went from being potentially the most progressive ad of the year to just another example of a near-miss. I’m still gutted about that ad."

However, Stewart, the club chairwoman who is also the team’s coach, defended the TV ad against what she described as an "unfair statement". She pointed out that the 30-second spot shows her twice and uses her voice to highlight inclusion and equality.

She said: "The Carling 'Made local' campaign is about highlighting positive stories in local communities, so when the advert was commissioned I worked very closely with Carling and Havas to ensure that all representation was positive and that all dimensions of the LGBTQ+ community was highlighted in a positive way.

"As a trans woman, I feel that this was highlighted in the 30-second edit, with me appearing on two occasions and my voice being used to highlight inclusion and equality. This was then highlighted further in the documentary. I have received lots of positive feedback from the trans community and LGBTQ+ groups in the media and sports media that a trans woman in football has been positively represented."

Miranda Osborne, brand director at Carling, said: "We’re proud to have featured Skye and the whole Black Country Fusion team in our campaign. Our work with them doesn’t stop with the advert and documentary. We are continuing to support them through our Made Local Fund, which helps grassroots projects in local communities like Black Country Fusion FC to continue to thrive."

A Havas London spokesman said: "We’ve worked closely with Skye throughout the 'Made local' campaign and, as well as featuring in both the 30-second TVC and the documentary, she appears prominently on Carling’s website and has been featured significantly in PR activities, generating a positive conversation in the media around inclusivity."

The Carling creative was one of 17 that PrideAM’s panel evaluated for its annual creative review. It found that across the whole, trans inclusion had decreased compared with last year, while lesbian inclusion increased by a very small amount.

Among the ads praised were Scottish Widows "Taking on your future together" and River Island "This is family", while those that had a more mixed reception included British Airways "Made by Britain" and Vauxhall "Keeps calm, carries on".

Update 12 July 2019: 

Following publication PrideAM wished to add the following quote from Richard Miles: "PrideAM supports and celebrates all positive steps towards LGBTQ inclusion and we have noted carefully Carling's comments.

"The long-form version of the Carling ‘Made Local’ ad was highly praised by the review panel with comments like "smashed so many boundaries", "well-researched" and "I want the team to have a series!". That represents incredible inclusivity by a global marketer and world-renowned brand.

"The panel – which included members of the trans community – would have loved the trans representation to have been a more overt focus of the 30-second edit. The full unexpurgated review is on the PrideAM website."

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