Missing stars on the U.S. flag reflect freedoms denied to LGBTQ+ Americans

Pro bono campaign is first work from cross-agency LGBTQ+ group WPP Unite

Published On
Feb 23, 2022

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The United States was founded on the promise of freedom, but centuries later, 29 states don’t protect LGBTQ+ citizens with the same liberties as others. That reality is reflected in “The Reality Flag,” a sobering version of the U.S. flag that displays only stars for states with equal protections for their LGBTQ+ citizens, an abyss of leftover navy underscoring the bleak reality as it waves in the wind.

The flag is part of an effort from the Human Rights Campaign to support the Equality Act, legislation that would ensure nondiscrimination rights nationwide for LGBTQ+ people. It was led pro bono by agencies across WPP as part of its new community of LGBTQ+ creatives, strategists, media planners, designers and public relations practitioners called WPP Unite. Contributing agencies include VMLY&R, BCW, Wavemaker and Hogarth.

The flag will fly outside of the Human Rights Campaign’s headquarters in Washington D.C., only six blocks from the White House, and is the centerpiece of a series of videos directed by the award-winning creator of Amazon’s “Transparent,” Joey Soloway.

The Reality Flag

The series highlights the experiences of real LGBTQ+ individuals who live in the 29 states without anti-discrimination legislation. The anthem spot shows Parker C., who was refused service in Oklahoma for being gay; Queen, who was denied housing in North Carolina for being transgender; and Staci J., who was turned away from medical care in Minnesota for being lesbian.

The video is somber as each person raises the “Reality Flag.” But the narrator promises change is possible “because this is America.”

The campaign’s website offers resources, educational materials and ways to donate to the Human Rights Campaign’s efforts to pass the Equality Act.

Read: 5 Lessons on LGBTQ+ Marketing

“WPP’s ambition is to build better futures for our people, the planet, our clients and the communities we serve,” said Brian Ellner, executive sponsor of WPP Unite North America, in a statement. “When we launched WPP United in North America we wanted to find an opportunity right away to make an impact so we immediately reached out to HRC to ask how we could help in the fight for fairness. HRC wanted a bold creative campaign to help get the Equality Act back in the political conversation and to educate the public on the continued lack of equality for LGBTQ+ Americans living in 29 states. We weren’t shying away from this one—Reality Flag is the perfect example of how WPP uses its creativity and its scale as a force for good.”

The campaign will run in over 30 variants across TV, print, OOH and social with the support of major vendors and influencers.