Changing community attitudes a ‘good end game’ for Mardi Gras sponsorship says ANZ marketing boss

It's been four years since ANZ elevated its support for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and Auckland Pride Festival, launching GayTMs for the first time across Australia and New Zealand. Ahead of the launch of this year's GayTMs, Zoe Samios speaks to ANZ's Carolyn Bendall on the bank's brand positioning, its push for equality and the risks of jumping on the social justice bandwagon.

Helping to shift community attitudes is a good end goal for ANZ Bank following the social launch of its 2017 work for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and Auckland Pride Festival, chief marketing officer of ANZ’s Australia division, Carolyn Bendall tells Mumbrella.

“Big brands have powerful voices, and if they’re used to the right effect they really can have an impact in communities and societies,” she says. 

“Of course we want to achieve as much reach, as far and wide as possible, so the message we have created can really have an impact and hopefully help to bring down some of the stigma and encourage more people to hold hands, and most importantly for others not to consider that a big deal.”


Bendall: “Big brands have powerful voices”

ANZ is no stranger to making bold statements about diversity and equality.

Last year the bank transformed its Oxford Street Sydney branch into a Baroque-inspired ‘GayNZ‘ and tackled the subject of equal pay with young children.

This year’s campaign, with the theme ‘Hold Tight’, launched through social for the first time and features a hashtag and short video.

The video shows members of the Australian LGBTIQ community, letting go of each other’s hands because they felt uncomfortable. It urges the LGBTIQ community to “hold tight”.

An internal analytics report for ANZ across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and ANZ’s site showed at close of business last Friday the ad been seen by 5.7m.

Speaking with Mumbrella ahead of the launch of this year’s GayTMs, which will ‘hold’ each other, Bendall said the Mardi Gras and Pride Festival sponsorship isn’t approached by the company as a traditional “campaign”.

“We’ve got a pretty long history of supporting the Mardi Gras and indeed the Big Gay Out in Auckland in New Zealand so for us, we don’t tend to approach it like a campaign,” she said.

“We’ve deliberately created a campaign and set of assets that can live beyond Mardi Gras and we of course are observing the marriage equality debate in Australia and believe there may be a time when we’ll speak to utilise some of these materials again and crack way into the national conversation again knowing that it is such an important societal topic.”

This year’s work was developed from insights found in research commissioned by ANZ, which reported the LGBTIQ community were three times more likely – 52%-  than others in the Australian community -14% – to have felt uncomfortable holding hands in public.

The insights, developed from a sample of 1,001 respondents, also reported 94% of Australians agree everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, should feel comfortable holding hands in public.

However, 43% of the LGBTIQ community do not feel at ease doing so, the report suggests.

This year's campaign is driven on social with a video encouraging the LGBTIQ to "hold tight"

This year’s campaign is driven on social with a video encouraging the LGBTIQ community to “hold tight”

Commenting on the report, Bendall said other insights came from the ANZ’s pride community as well as agency partners.

“Between ourselves and our agency partners, it was something that really was actively monitoring and listening. We use our internal pride community, pride group as key advisers and they are great in terms of contributing their thoughts and insights,” she said.

“This topic of something as simple as holding hands and the basic sign of human love and affection is just so dramatically difficult and different from the rest of the population for the LGBTIQ community.”

“It shone a light on something that most of us have not thought twice about because it is so basic and so simple.”

To date, ANZ has managed to successfully build on each year’s sponsorship effort, increasing the reach and support of the Mardi Gras and Auckland Pride Festival.

Commenting on the challenges of building on the work each year, Bendall says the “biggest test” is making sure each campaign “hits the right mark.”

“If we were to take ourselves back to that first year, which was 2014, that was the biggest test for us was could we actually pull this off in terms of getting the internal support to do something as bold and big as we did as GayTMs, but also to ensure we got it right?

ANZ transformed its Oxford St branch into ‘GayNZ’ in 2016.

“We take a lot of care in testing it and sounding out these ideas and making sure what we are doing achieves its purpose but also hits the right mark, because the last thing we want to do is miss that mark and offend anyone.”

While this year’s campaign moves beyond the GayTM transformation, Bendall says the GayTMs are still an “enduring symbol” for ANZ.

The 2017 GayTMs, show two hands holding each other.

She adds the “real stroke of brilliance” for this year’s campaign was the additional video featuring ANZ staff talking about #holdtight.

“That’s what’s helped the whole thing resonate; because it is actually something that’s started from within and something our people care about,” she said. 

“The majority of the people of that film are from our pride community and the LGBTIQ community,” she said.

“It is a really important part of us as a brand, the issue is important and nobody would dispute that, and it has enabled ANZ to have a more authentic voice because we’re talking about something that is true to our DNA and it is absolutely true.

“It does have an impact when you do something that your own staff are proud of,” she adds.

ANZ has sponsored the Mardi Gras for the past 11 years and the Auckland Pride Festival for five.

This year’s Mardi Gras and Auckland Pride Festival events will feature wristbands that light up as people hold hands.

Bendall says the sponsorship was a creative way of bringing the “brand value of inclusion to life”.

“Coupled with that – and this comes back to our close working partnership with TBWA – Mardi Gras and the GayTM has also helped us develop our brand tone of voice and our personality,” she says.

“Essentially it’s about positioning our brand. We recognise the role we play in the community and we have a loud voice and a large voice so we take a lot of care with it.

“That will make us then more relevant and then more top of mind. When our consumers, when they have a financial need, if they are looking to start a business, if they are looking to buy a home, we’d like to think we are helping to position ANZ as a brand that’s relevant.”

 When asked about brands jumping on social issues Bendall said while it’s “important” she warned those who did so for ulterior motives.

“It is important to support social issues, but only when it is done authentically back to the true DNA of the brand,” she says.

“If there are other more shallower reasons for brands to weigh in on things, they will come undone around it.”


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