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.