New PFLAG ads advocate for transgendered Canadians

An attempt to create a nuanced voice for an overlooked community

How do you take a situation as nuanced and potentially complicated as transgender identity and distill it into a 30-second spot? That’s that challenge that creative agency FCB Toronto faced when creating a new transgender advocacy campaign for PFLAG Canada (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

FCB’s answer was a video spot where a male voice speaks out of a female body, and a second with a female voice and a male body. The ads are airing nationally.

“We worked with a doctor that deals directly with a large population of transsexual people, and consulted with him in terms of condensing this message,” says Robin Heisey, FCB Toronto’s chief creative officer.

“Gender is so often misunderstood as a binary proposition, and the reality is there is some subtlety that is extremely significant. So the challenge was to simplify the message while embracing those subtleties.”

The spots, produced in partnership with Steam Films and Industry Films, also appear online at TheMeInside.ca.

The campaign includes print, radio and social media components. The print ads, which are currently being developed for the French and other language markets, feature people wearing masks of the other gender and the line “Not All Prisons Have Bars. Support Trans Awareness.”

Radio spots, produced by RMW Music Toronto, feature a script where a female voice transitions seamlessly to a male voice and back.

FCB Toronto did the work pro bono, and the print and video space have been donated by various media companies. The media buy was done by Initiative Media, and Select Public Relations is handling the PR.

The campaign focuses on the transgender community because “we felt it was overdue,” says Heisey. Within the LGBT community, “there’s been a fair bit of attention paid to ‘LGB’ and not nearly enough to ‘T’… We really wanted to make people understand this wasn’t about sexuality. It was a question of identity.”

Previously, the agency had worked with PFLAG on the Sharing our Stories campaign, which included a spot where a mother shared the impact of her transgendered child’s voice changing after his transition.

“She talked about the time when her now-son left a message on her voicemail, and it was a really striking moment,” says Heisey. “It made a huge impression with everybody, and I think that may have been one of the things that was lingering there – the idea that hey, there’s a lot more to that story.”

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