How Nikon Stood Out By Stepping Back

Previously published at on March 12, 2015.

It’s not new. With the fight for marriage equality reaching the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, more and more brands have shown support by featuring same sex couples in advertisements. Usually, these couples are played by hired models. What is new is brands are beginning to feature real couples in their ads. Nikon is just one example of a brand that has graced headlines within the past few months for its commercial featuring two gay dads as part of its “I Am Generation Image” campaign.

Controlling Their Narrative

Kordale and Kaleb Lewis are the fathers of 8-year-old Desmiray, 7-year-old Maliyah and 6-year old Kordale. The two were celebrated across several social media platforms after theirInstagram photo went viral in January 2014. The photo gave a glimpse into the family’s daily life, as it showed the pair combing their daughters’ hair and preparing for the day. Unfortunately, they also became the subjects of homophobic remarks.

“The comments were a trip,” Kaleb recalls in the video. “It didn’t make me feel any way because I know they don’t know what we go through. I know that they don’t know our children. I know that they don’t know our lifestyles. They don’t know how we live.”

The ad was impactful for several reasons. First, it allowed Kordale and Kaleb to control their narrative. Nikon seemingly put them in charge of telling their own story, rather than constructing an imaginary story around a pretend couple. It was honest. Their story didn’t have to try to be believable because it was real. This is their life.

Telling Stories and Changing Attitudes

At points, I almost forgot I was watching an ad. It actually felt like a feature story on how this family of five uses photos to capture their daily life. Here, Nikon’s product is just a tool for Kordale and Kaleb to document their experiences with their children. It’s used to share their story, in hopes of helping people see their family isn’t all that different.

And for me, that’s bare bones public relations – telling stories and changing attitudes. That’s our responsibility. Sometimes  it’s not enough that the work we do and the stories we tell help achieve business and communication objectives. We should be striving to change societal ills when we have the opportunity and platform to do so.

Do you feel this story in Nikon’s “I Am Generation Image” campaign can be effective in shifting ideas about marriage equality and how we view the ability of same sex couples to raise children? Share your thoughts below.