The founder and current UK leadership of PrideAM, which provides leadership and advocacy for LGBT+ people in advertising and marketing, is locked in a dispute over the name and operations of the organisation.
PrideAM was founded in 2015 by Scott Knox, managing director at the Marketing Agencies Association, who became its first president. In 2016, Knox relocated to Canada and handed the reins to Mark Runacus, co-founder of Wax/On and chair of the Data & Marketing Association.
Knox has since established branches of PrideAM in Canada and the US, and is in the process of launching in Australia, Brazil, Japan, Russia and countries in the European Union.
Earlier this summer, the UK organisation, which previously had no legal structure, made the decision to set up a not-for-profit company. Instead of calling it PrideAM, Runacus and other organisers chose the name Outvertising, which it had previously used for a guide that it produced. It was a decision that Knox said he was not involved in, did not feel he had been kept informed about and with which he passionately disagreed.
Speaking to Campaign, Runacus said the change was a majority decision of the most active members of PrideAM and that it had been motivated by making the organisation more easily recognised and effective.
"The name was frequently shortened to Pride and that immediately has associations with the events," he said, referring to marches and festivals including Pride in London. It was also felt that the name did not make clear the industry that PrideAM represented, Runacus added, noting that at last year’s Pride in London parade a compère quipped: "PrideAM – is that a gay radio station?"
He said that the new structure, which PrideAM had been advised to adopt by lawyers, was about "both literal and emotional shared ownership" and would seek to give a voice to the "really broad spectrum of opinion" in the LGBT+ community.
Knox, however, argued that the move is clumsy "from a branding perspective".
He said: "There are Pride organisations throughout the world and the word Pride has become synonymous with the LGBTQ+ movement, transcending language barriers. There are many Pride organisations in London, some set up inside client companies and agencies, with the word Pride as part of their brand.
"I feel quite strongly that PrideAM works as a brand, both in the UK and internationally. Everyone gets it. We created Outvertising when I was in London as the name for the LGBTQ+ guide to marketing to and with LGBTQ+ people – it was great; the second version launched this summer even better. But what Outvertising means needs explaining, especially when you travel outside of the UK. PrideAM is the better brand, which I think is quite obvious."
While Knox said he had felt excluded after struggling to participate remotely in PrideAM’s UK meetings, it appears that the situation was exacerbated by technical failings that meant Knox had not received information that Runacus believed had been sent. The two men have subsequently spoken on the phone.
Knox made a point of praising the work done by Runacus, secretary Stephen Lynch and treasurer Gerard Cabral since he left the UK. "What they’ve been achieving has been outstanding – it’s just bloody brilliant," he continued, but said of the name change: "For me personally, it’s been a bitter pill to swallow."
Runacus said he did not at all intend to separate Outvertising from the international PrideAM organisations that Knox has established.
"We passionately want to ensure there remains an acknowledgement of the original PrideAM and of Mr Knox as the founder," he said. "We really look forward to sharing the UK-developed assets… [and] learning from other markets."