Your Shot: VMLY&R Is Voting for Love in the Polish Elections
In 2015, the right-wing ‘Law + Justice’ party emerged victorious in the Polish parliamentary elections. Over the following years, life for LGBTQ+ people in Poland became harder and harder with a slew of homophobic rhetoric and legislation issued by the government under the leadership of Jarosław Aleksander Kaczyński.
In a recent speech, Kaczyński described LGBTQ+ people as a “threat to Polish identity, to our nation, to its existence and thus to the Polish state”. For the NGO Campaign Against Homophobia (CAH), enough is enough.
With the help of creative agency VMLY&R Poland, the CAH has created a mock election campaign of its own, entitled Vote For Love. Perfectly timed for the parliamentary elections next week, CAH is holding rallies, hosting debates and even putting up its own mock election candidates emblazoned on posters across the country.
For a glimpse behind the campaign, LBB’s Adam Bennett spoke to VMLY&R Poland’s Maciek Kozina.
LBB> Can you give us a bit more context about what’s happening in the Polish elections?
Maciek> Of course. Back in 2015, the elections were won by the right-wing Conservative party Law & Justice, and they basically used a lot of fear tactics in their election campaign. Back then their ‘enemy of the people’ was migrants [this was at the time of the migration crisis in the EU] and they basically used that to instil what you might describe as an atmosphere of fear to boost their support.
And now, in the upcoming elections, they are targeting the LGBTQ+ community in the same way. Unfortunately in these elections there's not much representation for LGBTQ+ rights or interests in the public space because politicians figure that its only 5% of society. This is the big picture and its where we come in.
So, we started going through reports and gathering knowledge and it turned out that a lot of LGBTQ+ people, proportionally speaking, do turn out to vote. It’s something like 80% of LGBTQ+ people who vote compared with 40% of the population as a whole. So we figured we have to make a campaign that will mobilise people who support the LGBTQ+ community to show politicians that they are a force to be reckoned with.
LBB> Is there one particular party that CAH is mobilising behind or is it more broad?
Maciek> So what we are doing is putting politicians’ feet to the fire, so to speak. We’ve sent out hundreds of questionnaires to politicians to ask where they stand on LGBT rights, and there are just two questions they need to answer. Are they for equal rights? And are they for LGBT marriages?
What we are providing to people who visit our website is a list of politicians who do support LGBT+ rights. We aren’t supporting any political party, rather the idea of same sex marriage and equality. So there is a campaign mechanic that gets politicians to make a stand and show potential voters which politicians they should choose if LGBTQ+ rights are important to them.
LBB> Is there a tangible result that you’re campaigning for in these elections?
Maciek> We are looking to get a better turnout in the parliamentary elections from people who are, let’s say, not passionate about politics but support LGBTQ+ rights. We are trying to get more people to vote and we started the campaign two weeks ago. The idea is to make a mock political campaign - we have campaign posters, a campaign rally, we had debates, so on and so forth. I would say it’s a parody of a normal political campaign.
LBB> Has it had any backlash? From the more conservative politicians?
Maciek> Oh yes, it definitely has. You don’t need to look far, very recently leading conservative politicians have described being gay as a ‘perversion’ and that we need to get rid of people who ‘promote those perversions’. The backlash is massive. I read a statistic that says Poland has become the second most homophobic country in Europe within the past few years. So the atmosphere is very hot around the issue.
LBB> That’s horrible - but as long as people are talking about it, I suppose your campaign is doing its job?
Maciek> Yes, there has been a lot of press coverage and media around the campaign. But we wanted to get people to make their own campaigns as well. So during our events and rallies you can create your own campaign posters showing that you support the cause. So it’s mobilising your own social circle around the idea of LGBTQ+ rights and that’s how I think we can really make a difference with this campaign. Because of course there are so many people who are not LGBTQ+ but who are willing to support their rights, so to those people we are saying hey, don’t vote for politics, vote for rights. In fact, polls show around 60% of the population does support gay marriage, for example, so we need to show politicians that there is massive support for these communities and it’s a force to be reckoned with in this election.
LBB> When the opportunity for this campaign first came through, why was this something that you wanted to be involved in?
Maciek> So the CAH got in touch with our clients, gazetta.pl, and they got talking about whether they could do something together. gazetta.pl referred them to us and we took things from there. They said yeah here’s the challenge, here’s our budget and we all agreed the idea was something we wanted to get behind. As I say, the challenge is to drive an increase in voter turnout and in doing so give a stronger voice to this community. And so that’s why we settled on the name of this campaign, which is ‘Vote for Love’.
LBB> And what was the biggest challenge you faced when you were going through with it?
Maciek> Well we are still in the middle of the campaign so perhaps the biggest challenge is still to come! But so far we’ve been working on a very tight schedule for getting things together for such a large-scale campaign. We have billboards, for example, in more than 40 Polish cities so this is not just a small campaign for Warsaw. We are trying to mobilise people all over the country. So we had to prepare what amounts to a full election campaign, with posters and billboards and rallies, in less than a month! That was a huge challenge.
LBB> Your campaign uses well-known LGBTQ+ people in its posters and billboards. How did you go about choosing which people to go with?
Maciek> Well that was another challenging task because LGBTQ+ is a very diverse community and we wanted to have at least one person representing each colour of the rainbow so to speak. So we ended up choosing prominent figures in the community who represent that diversity. For example we have a well-known TV personality, a Paralympic champion and all sorts of prominent members of the community.
LBB> And was it difficult to get people with that kind of public profile to be involved?
Maciek> Well, some of them, especially the ones who are already big in social media, were really on board with the idea from the start. They’re already well-known in the community so they’re used to the attention and sadly used to being hated by the so-called other side. But some of them did struggle, because it takes a lot of bravery to get involved with a campaign like this. It’s one thing being known within the community but something else entirely when you come out to the entire country and say that you need to vote for my rights.
So some of those people were really easy to get on board, with others there was some hesitation but these are some very brave people.
Client: Campaign Against Homophobia
Agency: VMLY&R Poland
Executive Creative Director: Dawid Szczepaniak
Associate Creative Director: Maciek Kozina
Copywriter: Filip Śliwa
Junior Copywriter: Klaudia Kryńska
Art Director: Ada Kamienobrodzka
Head of PR: Łukasz Majewski
PR assistance: Joanna Juchacz
Senior Strategy Planner: Gocha Adamczyk
Account Director: Magda Brejnak-Kowalska, Anna Kwiatkowska
Senior Account Executive: Stefania Patyna
Account Manager: Marta Smoręda
Designer, DTP: Rafał Cieciura, Kostas Ipeiros, Sabina Foremna,
Technology Lead: Joanna Friedberg
Head of Media: Kamil Dmowski
Media Planner: Michał Wolfram
Programmatic: Sylwia Gilert, Mateusz Urbanek
Influencer Lead: Olga Stachowicz, Mateusz Zych
Traffic Manager: Krzysztow Bajkowski, Joanna Marach
Category: Corporate, Social and PSAs , Political