"Queer City" May Be the Best Campaign Ever

February 20, 2020

WarnerMedia’s Amy Tunick, VP of operations and activation, and Jordan Shavarebi, a filmmaker, shared insights and learnings after creating and planning its interactive and curatorial campaign and exhibit “Queer City: A CNN Experience.”

To honor the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, WarnerMedia’s News division launched “Pride and Progress.” This initiative combined provocative editorial content from CNN and Great Big Story with custom marketing elements for its two sponsors, Procter & Gamble and BMW.

In particular, “Queer City: A CNN Experience” invited the public to walk through a curated museum featuring hundreds of artifacts and stories of queer individuals in New York City. P&G showcased its documentary, Out of the Shadows, which told the story of a group of LGBTQ+ employees at its Cincinnati headquarters. BMW brought forward a photo booth experience to highlight the “safe space” that many LGBTQIA+ individuals sought out.

To create such a complex event, events and documentary filmmaking had to merge to help create a human-centric environment that was curatorial, historical, informative, and fun. Interactive experiences help people understand different ideas and cultures, as well as celebrate them in human-centric ways.

In 2018, P&G created The Words Matter, a video that emphasized how words matter and how people change culture, which won a Cannes award. It highlighted many voices in the LGBTQ+ community.

Then, in 2019, P&G delivered a 25-minute film sequel to The Words Matter called Out of the Shadows, which was screened at CNN’s event “Queer City” as a way to elevate the brand’s position within the LGBTQ+ movement. The video also aired at Cannes in 2019.

Define your “big idea.” To pull off such a complex and multifaceted event, as Queer City aimed to celebrate queer culture and art, create visibility, and promote equality, the companies needed to define their big idea. Once the idea was established, finding solutions to creating the event was easier.

Pride and Progress was planned about a year in advance, leveraging both the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and the fact that World Pride was also celebrated for the first time in North America (specifically New York City) that year.

The videos aired on CNN, with digital components on the site. P&G and BMW came together to show historical footage, inspiring first-person interviews, and live coverage of the parade. In Out of the Shadows, one person interviewed on camera said, “I wasn’t looking for people’s approval, I was just looking for acceptance.”

The interviews connected the LGBTQ+ community together, and illustrated how people want to feel like they can show their full lives, whether at work or in public — and the importance for companies to foster this environment.

Show real people. Part of the concept of “Queer City” was showcasing what it was like for a queer person to live in New York City from the 1940s to today as an interactive art/museum space. Part of the exhibit used clothing, audio recordings, photos, journals, and visual art to create a very intimate and personal event.

A BMW activation included a photo booth to honor the queer history of photo booths, and how queer couples historically used photo booths to capture their love. This sought to empower the celebration of love that no longer must hide.

Other exhibitions included:

  • Victoria Cruz’s audio experience: Cruz watched what happened during the Stonewall riots from the sidelines. She narrated her experience in audio, and her outfit was also included. Many others narrated their experiences as well.
  • Ted Bloecher’s journals and art: Bloecher was a gay man and artist whose work focused on his identity and how he came to terms with his sexuality. A self-portrait painting was included, which was especially poignant he also was able to attend the event at age 90.
  • Political and cultural times were explored, such as the ’80s AIDS crisis.

In conjunction, a private evening featured speakers such as Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, Sarah Kate Ellis (president of GLAAD), and Adam Eli (founder of Voices4), and a special performance by drag pop trio Stephanie’s Child.

Overall, P&G saw a 56 percent stronger engagement rate and 250,000 completed video views, and Out of the Shadows saw a 75 percent completion rate. BMW’s content received over 2.5 million views across social, viewers were 59 percent more likely to show interest in the brand, and the brand saw a 64 percent higher engagement rate.


"'Queer City' May Be the Best Campaign Ever." Amy Tunick, VP Operations and Activation at WarnerMedia; Jordan Shavarebi, Filmmaker. ANA Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Committee Meeting, 2/20/20.

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