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What do you think of Absolut’s new advert with a transgender woman?

What do you think of Absolut’s new advert with a transgender woman?

The Absolut advert shows two friends reconnecting at a music festival after one has undergone transition

Swedish vodka brand Absolut has a long-standing reputation for being an LGBT friendly brand. It was one of the first drinks companies to specifically target the LGBT market with adverts in the gay media and to run pride-related promotions – including a rainbow-adorned Absolut bottle.

Its latest #AbsolutNights campaign carries on that tradition, with one specific advert featuring a woman meeting another woman and sharing a kiss, and another featuring a transgender woman.

However, the advert featuring the trans woman has met a mixed reaction from viewers.

The advert is narrated from the viewpoint of a man attending an all-night dance festival. He runs into an old friend.

‘Then I turned around and saw Dave. Only it wasn’t the Dave I remembered. He told me his name was Darla now.’

At first, the narrator is thrown and tries to get away, but Darla ‘grabbed my hand. The next thing I know, we’re running to see this DJ. Darla knew somebody and suddenly we’re backstage drinking Absolut Sea Breezes.’

The two enjoy a fun-filled night that ends with them talking about Darla’s life and personal journey.

‘We just walked and she told me she always felt this way. I just listened and somehow I understood.

‘She was my friend. The same person. The same heart. She hadn’t changed. I had.

The advert was produced by Panay Films and features a transgender actress, Carol Marra.

The advert, which went online in the second week of May, has now had nearly 600,000 views and over 500 comments.

Although such an advert is guaranteed to elicit comments from opponents of LGBT rights, it has also met a mixed reaction from some LGBT advocates and marketing experts.

Some YouTube users have praised the film, with Trans-girl Amy commenting: ‘This ad is fantastic and Its so good to see something good and happy about transgender people for a change. Ignore the transphobes Absolute [sic], you have done a good thing.’

Helen Belcher, a spokesperson for the UK-based Trans Media Watch told Gay Star Business that she welcomed the commercial.

‘It’s refreshing to see an ad which focuses on someone starting to understand trans issues. Adverts necessarily have to have simple storylines, so it’s not surprising that some people may feel it’s unnecessarily stereotypical. But there are some welcome messages for acceptance and understanding which this ad puts across.’

Bob Witeck, of US-based Witeck Communications, said, ‘Absolut has unique and longstanding credibility with gay consumers. This new campaign has an inspiring new look at trans people that really deserves kudos too for its sensitivity and honesty.

‘Past ad representations of transgender people often and regrettably relied on humor or shock value by having the trans person reveal themselves at the end. This new storyline instead begins with honesty, and allows humanity to follow.

‘What might have improved this spot, however, is by allowing the transgender character to speak in first character, rather than being seen through another person’s eyes.’

Ian Johnson, of LGBT marketing consultancy Out Now, was more critical.

‘This advertisement could have been so much better. It had a good initial set-up but the writing lets the ad down through being clumsily predictable from the outset,’ he told Gay Star Business.

‘The really frustrating part here though is that the main point of the narrative ends up not even being about Darla and her transition – it turns into a story about how impressed the cisgender character feels about himself.

‘This Absolut ad is an example where an attempt at natural inclusion has tipped into something way too close to patronizing. 10 out of 10 for their inclusion of a trans character but a pretty poor 3 out of 10 overall: for making the ‘surprising acceptance’ of a trans person the tale ultimately being told in the ad.’

However, Uwern Jong, founder of LGBT marketing agency Boutique Marketing said, ‘The #AbsolutNights campaign is a socially inclusive campaign.

‘It’s easy to take it out of context to suggest that the company is piggy-backing on the so-called “Trans*wave” but actually the rest of the campaign is also about inclusivity. It features a girl-kiss-girl moment, a widow looking to live her life, a romantic reunion – suggesting that no one is too old, too gay, or too ‘different’ to enjoy life. When you look at it like this, you can’t help but applaud the brand’s approach.’

‘Truly wonderful’

Trans advocate Jacqui Gavin described the advert as ‘truly wonderful.’

‘Trans people when going through transition look for a strong and positive reaction by those people closest to them – family/friends/colleagues/etc, because they are the ones that get us through this journey.’

The advert featuring two women is set at the same dance festival, and although it has garnered a similar number of hits, has not prompted the same amount of criticism. You can watch it below:

Commenting on the aim of the campaign, Gaia Gilardini, the Absolut Global Communications Director said: ‘Inspiring people to have unforgettable nights by opening up and connecting with others is at the core of our campaign.

‘With each of the #AbsolutNights campaign films, we simply wanted to tell stories of nights that were unique because of the attitude of the people in them. We feel that the nights featured in the films could happen to anyone, however, it’s the characters’ openness to connecting with people or to new experiences that enable them to have a unforgettable night.’


H/T: Forbes