The Instinct Interview: The Creative Team Behind Allstate's Heart-Stirring "Out Holding Hands" LGBT Pride Ad
"Bravo!! If just ONE person sees this and changes their mind or if ONE kid finds comfort or strength, then it was money well spent." -SteveinTX
"Great video, great support and a great song! Wish more companies would come out so-to-speak." -Mike Odle
"I am not gay, I do not have any gay friends (that I know about). I just want to say that I applaud Allstate for their ad." - Bigrob
The above are just a sampling of the hundreds of comments that found their way onto our post sharing Allstate's Pride-coinciding "Out Holding Hands" ad last week. The discussion ran the gamut of opinion, but on our website and our social media pages, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, skyrocketing Allstate's LGBT outreach to become this year's most viewed Pride post on Instinct. How'd the team achieve such resonance with the gay community? Well, an apt metaphor, a heart-wrenching soundtrack, "Safe In My Hands," by Eli Lieb, and a twist-ish ending that left the Internet talking, for starters.
But those are our words.
Considering the campaign's viral success, we reached out to the Leo Burnett Group creative team responsible for the spot for their own words regarding this Pride season's most-talked-about ad.
Jonathan Higbee: What was the inspiration for Allstate’s 2014 LGBT Campaign, “Out Holding Hands”?
Ed Odyniec [SVP Creative Director]: The campaign is based on a universal insight—when you like someone, you want to hold their hand. The simple act of holding your partner’s hand is one of the best feelings in the world. But for many in the LGBT community, this innocent romantic gesture means publicly outing themselves. And that can sometimes be frightening. Allstate believes that everyone should be treated with respect and without judgment no matter who they love, so the original insight led to the creation of a campaign that echoes the company’s core values in a beautifully artistic way.
Zach Bonnan [Copywriter]: The inspiration for this campaign is constantly all around us. On the news, online and in the streets, members of the LGBT community, despite great strides in recent years, are still made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe in public. When you have to think twice about holding hands with your loved one, you know that something in the world still needs to change. Along with Allstate, we wanted to be part of that social change by showing support for the LGBT community—with the hope that one day, people will stop seeing labels and start seeing what’s really important, people.
Christopher Warmanen [SVP Creative Director]: The campaign actually started last year with print, out-of-home and digital advertising featuring images of same sex couples holding hands in public with lines like “being visible should never leave you feeling vulnerable,” and “the butterflies you feel should come from love, not fear.” We saw people post photos from the campaign via social and buzz grew, so it was clear that the campaign had a great insight.
This year, we wanted to extend the campaign’s reach by including a film element. Film connects with people in an emotional way that print simply cannot. And doing an animated piece allowed us to tell a big story with a pretty small production budget. I also think the animation helps it to stand out even more.
Omari Miller [Associate Creative Director]: When challenged with creating a motion piece as part of Allstate's 2014 LGBT campaign, we were very passionate about wanting to convey something that was honest. Our desire was not to solicit, but instead demonstrate that Allstate is invested in its customers as people. And so, we wanted to tell a story that was true, and one that anyone could relate to.
Jonathan: How did the team so incisively capture what it’s like growing up gay?
Omari: It was not hard to source our point of view in the film; many members of the team are gay, and know firsthand what struggles can be faced as an openly gay person in our world. Additionally, many team members have close family members who are gay, and wanted to express their compassion and wishes for the people they love. In all, we were all driven by values in our lives, and that contributed greatly to the focus of this film, and is likely why the emotion within it is palpable.
Christopher: For me, it comes from personal experience. But the story and metaphor of the man with an overly large hand can apply to anyone who grew up feeling out of place or ridiculed for being different.
When we briefed teams on the project (both straight and gay), I told the story about how when I’m holding hands with my boyfriend in public, we sometimes drop our hands when turning a corner or when passing other people if we’re unsure whether they’re gay-friendly or not. The scene on the subway platform captures that moment when the main character tries to hide his unusually large hand under his coat.
Zach: Everybody has felt like an outsider at one point or another in his or her childhood. At a young age, certain subjects or feelings can seem taboo, and often, being different feels like a detriment as opposed to an advantage. I find this to be true, not only in childhood, but throughout life. It’s hard to come to the realization that what makes you different is also what makes you a unique and interesting person. But once you embrace this fact, it’s a liberating and amazing feeling showing your true self to the world.
Jonathan: How did Eli Lieb [the musician whose track appears in the ad] become involved in the campaign?
Christopher: Eli came onto my radar last summer with his “Young Love” music video. I thought it was so well done and it even includes some great shots of Eli and the same-sex couple holding hands. We reached out to him and shared the idea and the ads we produced last year. He was excited to work with us, and he’s been absolutely wonderful. He took the idea and turned it into a touching, emotional song that’s really an LGBT anthem. And have you heard the dance remix? I can totally imagine it being played in the clubs. I’m excited to see that more people are discovering his music due to his partnership with Allstate.
Zach: Eli’s love songs are not about LGBT love, they’re about love on a universal level, no matter what form it takes. Working closely with Eli on the soundtrack allowed us to tell the story not only through animation, but through his inspiring lyrics that convey no matter who you are, at some point, it’s likely that you’ve felt like an outsider in public. The goal of this film is to encourage people in the world to stop seeing labels and instead see the unique human beings standing in front of them.
Omari: We felt it was fitting to find a confident, gay musician to support our intentions to craft an honest film. Eli was the perfect candidate—as an out artist, his work has focused on the complications of love in a questioning world. Yet his message is always positive, and his presence is always inviting.
Jonathan: What hopes did the team have for the completed work before it was released?
Christopher: We hoped we created an inspiring short film that would move people to think about Allstate in a new light— and maybe even move them to tears.
Zach: We wanted people who viewed this ad to root for our main character before ever knowing that he happens to be gay. And unlike other ads that passively mention LGBT issues, our goal was to end the film by openly supporting love no matter what form it takes.
Jonathan: Was there ever concern of blowback from the very vocal anti-gay activist movement?
Ed: I wouldn’t say concern; there is just more overall awareness. Allstate has done LGBT marketing efforts for several years now and has been recognized for the work. But this is a much larger effort that is reaching a lot of people.
Christopher: I think it’s hard to argue with what Allstate is saying in this campaign. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and without judgment no matter who they love. Everyone deserves to be able to show affection out in public.
Zach: There will always be people with different views out there. At the end of the day, Allstate’s goal is to provide the best products and services regardless of race, creed or orientation.
Jonathan: What are the team’s reactions to the way “Out Holding Hands” has been received?
Ed: It’s been a long road. We’ve been working on the film for several months. So to see the finished product is extremely gratifying. But the response has made this one of the best advertising experiences I’ve ever had. The response has been tremendous, and I think it’s just beginning.
Zach: We couldn’t be happier with the response we’ve been getting. To see the vast positivity stemming from our film has been awe-inspiring. I shared the film with one of my LGBT neighbors and he stopped me on the street, becoming emotional as he hugged me and thanked me for helping bring this film to a large audience. The feeling after affecting someone like that is beyond words. The entire team feels incredibly honored to be a part of this project and unbelievably proud to be a part of such a worthy social change.
Christopher: Watching the posts with #OutHoldingHands come in on Instagram and Twitter is so much fun. The #OutHoldingHands Gallery at allstate.com/lgbt is beautiful. It’s great to see people all across the country—and around the world—be inspired to share photos of themselves #OutHoldingHands.
Omari: We are beyond elated with how the film has touched people. To say that that it is rewarding would be an understatement—when you have masses of people eager to tell you that they empathized with the film, that the film moved them to tears even, we realize that we've transcended just making an ad. We accomplished what each of us really intended, which is to say with open hearts that we love our fellow man.