Philly Pride, It’s Time for a Reboot

It’s time to take Pride into the 21st century. By Robert Drake

The ad in question (courtesy of Philly Pride)

This year marks my 30th year being professionally involved with our local LGBT community, starting as co-founder and general manager of Au Courant newsmagazine back in 1982 – and I continue to be excited that Philly has several Pride celebrations each year.

Pridefest Philadelphia began in 1993 – in fact, I worked alongside the inaugural board of directors to help them take their first steps and I’m incredibly proud of the work we did during those early years. Pridefest Philadelphia morphed and developed into what we now know as Equality Forum, a week-long celebration every early spring throughout the city. Say what you will, but Equality Forum has helped put Philly on the map.

That said, I think it’s telling that there are even more gay-centric events – designed to be a bit more homegrown and homespun; focusing efforts on celebrating Philly Pride in June with the Pride Parade and festival on Penn’s Landing, and OutFest, a block party every October.

But here’s where I climb onto my soapbox.

Philly Pride does good work. It’s not easy planning an event of this size and magnitude. But as we get ready to celebrate on Sunday (June 10), why, oh why, must we (in a city home to a sea of exceptionally talented graphic designers and marketing companies) still tolerate poster designs and campaigns that are basically laundry-lists?

The ad for this year’s celebration is (to put it mildly) atrocious. And that’s a sin, really, since there are some wonderful folks involved in the festivities. But try deciphering the thing. (G Philly editor’s note: We have to agree with Robert. It took us more time than it should have to realize that the phrase “pride links us together” wasn’t “guide lines us together.”)

This has been a pet peeve of mine for years. Our local Pride celebration is stuck in a retro rut – and not in a good way. As one of the biggest cities in the U.S., it could be so much more. But you can tell a lot from a poster. What should be a classy and simple poster designed to draw attention around a fun event with celebrities and special guests has dissolved into a shout-out to every single person participating.

Fact is – the only vital thing (besides the traditional four W’s) is the other W this year: Wendy Williams – as headliner! That’s your lead, Philly Pride. You don’t start off with grand marshals – especially when it’s mostly local politicians, a band already promoted on the poster elsewhere and a few community members that – although I know do good work – aren’t going to “sell” the event to the average person reading the ad.

Looking at this poster reminds me of when I was with Au Courant back in the day and a certain bar owner would give me copy for his full-page ad. After weeks of frustration, I finally said, “Wait, you forgot ‘Free Napkin With Every Drink!'” From that point on, he let me handle the ad designs – and for the better, I might add.

But sadly, this poster “design” is a page taken from pre-Internet marketing when all you had was the poster and you felt forced (either by sponsors or contributors or board members) to include every little thing. Folks, that’s what a website is for.

But don’t get me started on the fact that Philly Pride has a website, but insists on using as their email service. Yay – 1995 in the house!

Today, that, too, is what a website’s all about. A poster or ad should entice you and encourage you to want to learn more about something by going online. But unfortunately, this mishmash of an ad does the opposite.

And while we’re at it, I don’t know what pictures Philly Pride has on BETTY, but man, they need to be given a rest. I have played BETTY on Q’zine, a queer arts and culture magazine I’ve hosted on WXPN since the mid-90s. But C’mon, their last CD came out almost four years ago! There are so many queer musicians touring the country who are desperate for the showcase of a Pride event in a major market like Philadelphia. Clean the slate and bring in some new names. Shake things up and remember – just because someone offers to appear every June doesn’t mean you have to accept their offer.

The Philly Pride website, with its animated GIFs galore and tons of late-90s fonts and colors, also needs a reboot. The only thing that seems to fit the website design is the fact that they use AOL for their email links. It even says that the talented local crew at YIKES developed the Philly Pride website, but if you go to YIKES’ own site, there’s no record of this. Of all the beautiful regional website design they showcase on their page (these women are incredibly talented), Philly Pride is nowhere to be found. I don’t believe this was an oversight. At all.

Bottom line: Get it together. Let’s get our Philly Pride into the 21st century. After all, there’s a whole new generation of queers out there who are way more 2.0 then many of us 1.0 queers from last century. Start by investing in a new website design; a Philly Pride mobile app; email services for your domain; an interactive partnership with a local PR and design company to help shape a new, powerful (and appealing) image for your organization.

And for God’s sake, give BETTY a rest. Talented or not, there’s a slew of more talented queer musicians out there just waiting for their turn at the mic.

Happy Philly Pride, everyone!

Robert Drake has worked in local media since 1982 and will celebrate 25 years with WXPN-FM in 2013. He currently hosts Q’zine, a queer arts and culture magazine, as well as produces Kids Corner – heard weeknights on XPN. He also DJs the popular Sex Dwarf party every First Friday at Fluid.

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  • Marcello Brening Barrera

    Thank YOU so much for writing this. I have been getting hives every time I look at the poster… I just can’t believe the the “link us together” was a winner of a design contest thrown by Philly Pride… I <3 Fran and all the folks at Philly Pride, they put together an event in a city which I have found to be mostly uninterested in the cause (given the chance they will rather run to NYC, DC, Rehoboth or any other Pride rather than ours) but I agree you are right on the revamp thing. I know the current crew has the ability to do it. Maybe our goal should be to show our neighboring cities that maybe, just maybe, coming to our Pride event, is worth the trip ;)

  • Michael

    Philly Pride needs someone current in the community. Somebody needs to step in and take over. This flyer is an example of how terrible it is. Pride in other cities invest in the event. Not ours, it all goes right into their pockets. Check out Boston or DC Pride this weekend. It’s worth the trip.

  • Ron Lucente

    Philly Pride happens every year thanks to dedicated, hardworking volunteers. I encourage all of you with your thoughts, ideas and opinions to offer your time and talents as volunteers. Improvements can only happen with a collaborative community effort.

  • Tracy B.

    I can’t say that I disagree with this article, or the points, but I find the timing and release of it disappointing. The entertainment and poster have been up for quite some time. What’s the value of pointing out the flaws and issues just a few days before the event? To deter people from not supporting? Bad. As an event planner, I appreciate the work that has been put into this event, and clearly, at this point, nothing can be changed, so why not support what it is, and give feedback for next year, or earlier next time, when changes may have been possible.

    • Jimmi

      The sorry declining state of the Pride celebration has kept me away. I am appalled that someone would charge me money to be proud to be gay and look at the same tired rainbow festooned garbage for sale and pull me away from the heart of the community.

  • ChrissMari

    I’m sure a lot of it is sponsors and people agreeing to perform for free for being on the poster. There’s still organizations out there that say “but what if someone doesn’t have a computer how will they know what’s going on?” I’ve run into that too many times to be able to recount.

    People have computers, if they don’t they can go to WWCC, they can get the PGN. There are a lot of ways for people to find out what’s going on without writing EVERY SINGLE THING on an ugly poster that screams 1992.

  • ChrissMari

    Tracy B- because it’s relevant, now? No one would give a crap about it 3 months ago.

  • Jimmi

    I cannot understand why you need to pay to go to a pride celebration. Maybe it’s me and having had gone to Pride celebrations in NYC, San Fran and Washington. (Did I mention that me and my partner once worked on the March on Washington of ’93?) So, tell me why we need to pay $10 to get in? With all the Corporate Sponsorship we need to pay? Why is this on Penn’s Landing so far away from the LGBT Community? (Let’s not start that Penn’s Landing Design is some nightmare and an accessibility nightmare.) Why not closer to the community? Think how the local LGBT Businesses would benefit. And why oh why do we get such D-List entertainment? Doesn’t anyone in this city have better connections? I love Henri David but can’t we get a different local host? The act is wearing thin. We have so much local talent like Sandy Beach and Salotta Tea that would make wonderful co-hosts. I usually cross off this event because frankly, it sucks. I am left with the feeling that there are people who are more concerned with making money for themselves than doing anything worth while for the Community.

  • In response to Tracy B:

    I can’t imagine that an opinion piece will stop any one person, already planning to go Sunday, from going.

    With exception to BETTY, I never slammed the event content or the event planners.

    My issue is with the marketing of the event – as well as with the overall image that the Philly Pride organization has developed after years of rut programming and marketing efforts.

    It’s time to enter the 21st century, twelve years late.

    • kevin

      Excellent points. It took forever to figure out what the logo said. Pride in Philadelphia has a very backwater feel to it. The fifth largest city in country and its pride celebration feels like it should be in the 100th largest instead.

  • Andy

    I agree with Tracy B. The event is this weekend. Make suggestions next year and help plan.

    Shows that G Philly & Robert Drake have no class. Show some professionalism and courtesy. Why would GPhilly even post this? Dumb!

  • Jpsmith

    We are so proud….low voter turnout, declining activism, the lack of a gay marriage movement in pa – why not turn pride into a protest march? Wake up gay people! The tea party gets out the vote – we need to do the same. Flyer schmyer let’s get radical a la occupy wall street!

  • Anthony

    Love this! I was so puzzled for the past week to not find an official Twitter feed or hash tag! No Facebook account! Not even an old school message board for folks to reach out toone another and spread the word of what folks were doing. The first two would be no cost and low effort. I think I am going to contact Philly pride (Fran Price?) and VOLUNTEER to be their Social Media guy. Don’t have time to do the wordpress stuff, but I could pitch in that way. I hope the other folks above who are chiming in are gonna volunteer too!

  • Paul S

    Just gotta thank Anthony for stepping up and offering to volunteer. There are WAY too many nay sayers that love to gripe and complain about the current state of whatever affair is the hot topic. Yes, Philly Pride gets corporate sponsorship, but the entire Pride Day event, and OutFest are planned and implemented by a small group of volunteers. Don’t like the way things are done/look/sound? Get off the computer and go to a Philly Pride board meeting and offer your services to help improve future events.