Why we're uncomfortable with the Rowse Three Bears ad
A view from Tom Wong and Tom Trevelyan

Why we're uncomfortable with the Rowse Three Bears ad

Brands that feature people from LGBT+ minorities need to make sure to show them as whole multi-dimensional people.

After watching the latest work for Rowse, a comic take on Goldilocks where they have swapped out Three Bears for Three (Gay) Bears, we got talking in the standard WhatsApp group chat about the latest ads going around (everyone does that, right?). It’s great that brands are creating more work with more diverse characters, but a niggle worried if we were laughing with them or laughing at them? Has this minority, the bears, been packaged up and made the butt of a joke?

Ours may seem like a strong reaction to have, but we have a huge responsibility as an industry to be aware of the social impact of what we are creating. If we are showing people from LGBT+ minorities, then we need to make sure that we show them as whole multi-dimensional people – not as caricatures that are just there to have a brand message hung from them.

There’s been a lot of debate, especially on this site, about the diversity shown in our work and our industry, and the more brands push this the better. But we need to go further. We need to ensure that the work we make isn’t just ticking a box of diversity, but that it is also authentically representing people from across our society.

Authenticity is, and always has been, at the core of good advertising. If something doesn’t feel right, consumers won’t buy it. If we don’t take the same approach of authenticity with the stories and people we show in our work, we risk leading consumers to pigeonhole or worse, doubt the minorities that we have shown.

When work is authentic in its portrayal of minority communities, it can be powerful for the brand and for minorities. For example, the Lloyds proposal ad. It’s a great piece of work as you can feel the love between the characters, who just happen to be two men. Or take the new Ikea Hooray ad, which shows a family doing regular family things, they just happen to be black. And look at last year’s fantastic Coke ad that showed a family sparing for the attention of the hot pool boy – daughter and son losing out to mum. None of these played on stereotypes of culture, race, age or sexuality, but they told and showed authentic-feeling stories.

It’s great that the Rowse team have been bold with their work, but we need to make sure that we are showing minorities in an authentic way, not just showing them. It’s not easy, but the more we all try, the better we’re going to get at it. Afterall, nobody likes to be the punchline.

Tom Wong, the head of fame at Mother, and Tom Trevelyan, account director at Mr President, are friends who met at M&C Saatchi a long time ago. They talk about advertising and happen to be gay.