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Reflecting on Diversity & Inclusion in Advertising on the 5th Anniversary of Love Has No Labels

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Five years ago, the Ad Council took on an anti-discrimination campaign which quickly turned into Love Has No Labels—a movement to celebrate diversity, inclusion and belonging across race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender and religion. In partnership with R/GA, we launched Skeletons in 2015; since then the cultural climate (and the number of brands talking about diversity & inclusion) has changed quite significantly. But our message remains—love is the most powerful force to overcome bias and discrimination.

Sheri Klein and Jenn Walters have the privilege of working on and managing Love Has No Labels. Here they reflect on the past five years, and share what they’ve learned along the way:

1. There’s no need to feel competitive when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Our collective reach and voice are more powerful when we leverage and lean in to shared commitments, partnerships and coalitions.

In the past five years, many marketers, corporations, brands and non-profits have publicly committed to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion. And because we fundamentally share this commitment, Love Has No Labels has benefited tremendously from the many partners who have provided funding, shared learnings and extended our message. The campaign is truly a celebration of what our industry can accomplish when we work together

For instance, this campaign wouldn’t exist without the support of our Official Partners, including Bank of America, Budweiser, Google, Johnson and Johnson, PepsiCo, State Farm® and Wells Fargo. In addition to funding the campaign, these partners help extend the reach of our message throughout the year via online and offline activations including, social messaging, custom content creation, employee engagement, events and more.

And of course, our nonprofit partners, including Human Rights Campaign, AARP, and Anti-Defamation League, among others, are instrumental in lending their expertise to ensure that our work and resources truly move the needle on the issue.

2. Tone and cultural climate are everything.

After the Skeletons film went viral, we quickly recognized that our unique reason for being was to flood culture with diverse images of love and acceptance to erode bias. Our hero, across all communications, is inclusion. We consider it a responsibility to show the public the power of acceptance and belonging.

Being intentional about our purpose has allowed us to thread the needle and demonstrate the importance of diversity during key cultural moments like the fight for marriage equality (Skeletons), divisive elections (We Are America and Fans of Love) and natural disasters (Rising).

3. There’s nothing more rewarding than providing a public service and making an impact.

We feel very lucky to work on a campaign that year-after-year raises the creative bar on emotional storytelling. We know that our content will make you cry!

However, we carry a strong responsibility in providing content and resources that inspire and educate so that the public can rethink bias, consider how they might be more inclusive and take action. Since 2015, we have seen a significant increase in the number of adults who:

  • Believe there are things they can do to create a more accepting and inclusive environment (61% --> 74%)
  • Believe supporting diversity and acceptance around race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability is very important (33% --> 44%)
  • Acknowledge that bias can lead to discrimination (73% --> 80%)

And, we know that we have had a big impact when we hear things like this:

“this morning I was blessed enough to watch the love has no labels video which had me in tears. I even visited the site and learned so much about hidden bias that I wasn’t aware of taking part in myself. I will use this video to reinforce my standing and educate others.”

4. Finding unique and interesting ways to talk about diversity, inclusion and belonging allows us to reach and engage multiple audiences

Over the years, we have been very fortunate in that many partners have wanted to take on and support the Love Has No Labels campaign by donating time, space and talent. The generosity of many partners has helped drive impact year-round since we launched.  Here are a few examples:

  • Upworthy debuted the Skeletons film in 2015, and supported Love Has No Labels throughout the years with social posts, original videos, and articles about the campaign.
  • Jebbit developed a custom quiz for Valentine’s Day to help the audience reflect on their own inclusivity and implicit bias. Check it out here!
  • WWE connected us to Superstar John Cena to star in We Are America, and has supported Love Has No Labels throughout the year by promoting the campaign on broadcast and digital/social, and developing custom content with their diverse Superstars and Divas.
  • NFL provided the Pro Bowl venue to film Fans of Love, supported the campaign on social, and connected us with various NFL teams who wanted to engage.
  • Snapchat developed a custom Love Has No Labels lens that is permanently available in the Lens Explore section of the app.
  • Facebook helped extend our campaign messages with custom video content, including Meet John Smith as an extension of We Are America, and a docuseries (Love Rises in Houston, Love Rises in Orlando) featuring storyteller Jay Shetty as an extension of Rising
  • Twitter developed a custom hashflag for Love Has No Labels that ran for two years

5. We’re only getting started.

We can’t say much about what we have in store for this year – but we promise that all these lessons learned will be incorporated into whatever we do!

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About Jenn & Sheri

Jenn Walters and Sheri Klein have been working on the Ad Council’s Love Has No Labels campaign since 2015. Together they have helped manage and lead a cross-functional team of passionate, smart individuals who are determined to make an impact on diversity, equity and inclusion. As they reflect on Valentine’s Day and the campaign they care so much about, they can’t help but feel immense love for their families, colleagues, partners and each and every opportunity they’ve received to share and promote a message of love and inclusion.