A lot of brands are telling the history of LGBTQ rights during Pride Month. However, a few of them want to walk people through it.
To commemorate next week’s 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village, BMW and P&G are sponsoring a 5,000-square-foot experience focused on telling the story of what it was like to be gay in New York in the 1940s and subsequent decades. The event, “Queer City: A CNN Experience,” includes stories of people who were both public and private about their lives then and the struggles they went through along the way.
Created by Courageous Studios—a branded content division of WarnerMedia—”Queer City” will have nearly 300 artifacts that explain the story of LBGTQ rights since the 1940s with photos, home videos, clothing, letters, journals, protest art and memorabilia from the Stonewall bar itself.
The pop-up will be located at Hudson Mercantile from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 27. It will be followed by a private event featuring CNN personalities, including Don Lemon and Anderson Cooper, and a variety of others for employees of CNN, P&G and BMW.
Along with putting its logo on the experience, BMW is sponsoring a photo booth, which Courageous says is meant to represent a safe place that LGBTQ people would go in an era when they couldn’t show public affection without the fear of harassment or being arrested. The auto brand also ran a new Pride-themed commercial created by Courageous that will run on CNN and across social and digital channels, to celebrate 50 years of the LBTQ movement.
According to Michal Shapira, svp of news content partnerships and ad sales for Ignite at WarnerMedia, “Queer City” will resemble a pop-up museum. Some of the artifacts will be from the same people and follow them through the decades to “tell the story of many years of their life instead of just one moment in time.”
“The idea of an event, and specifically this one, was to kind of do what we do best in video, but this time it’s in real life,” Shapira said. “They really took the concept of storytelling and just translated it to a real-life experience. So it’s the same type of storytelling, especially the decade-by-decade look at this struggle and this movement. But it’s storytelling through experience, through moving a human being through these actual artifacts and real-life examples.”
Of course, the experience won’t be without videos. Along with the experience, Courageous has produced a 25-minute documentary called Out of the Shadows. The film tells the story of people who have fought for LGBTQ rights within P&G and the struggles that came with it. It also tells parallel stories happening elsewhere in the U.S. and around the world.
Out of the Shadows, which screened in Cannes this week at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, is a follow-up to one that Courageous created last year for P&G. That film, The Words Matter, told the history of before and after the brand added sexual orientation as a protected-people group to its equal-opportunity statement. (The Words Matter went on to win a Cannes Lion in 2018.)
“We realized there was still a story to be told, because even after the employers put those two words in, it wasn’t like everything got better,” Shapira said. “There was a lot of backlash to it, and rights that the community had to fight for above and beyond that.”