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Marketing gold on the equality rainbow

A wedding photographer from the uber-religious US state of Kentucky, who received a complaint for using a portrait of a homosexual couple in an advert, has drawn widespread attention to her business from the incident.

This advert for the wedding photography business appeared in a local magazine. The offending image is top left. Source: Wandering Elm Photography/Facebook

A loud-and-proud Christian lady was disgusted by an advert for Wandering Elm Photography, owned by Lacy Hilliard, which appeared in a local junkmail rag, Money Saver.

This lady was so disgusted about one of the six portraits showing a gay couple that she left a message expressing her unhappiness, while simultaneously displaying that good ol’ Southern hospitality.

‘If you think this [homosexual couple embracing in an advert] is going to fly in Somerset [the Kentucky town], you’re wrong. Homosexuality may be a small population in our country but it is still ungodly, and it’s disgusting. For you to put that in here and expect people to look at them as lovers. It’s a mistake. You really need to rethink you’re values and rethink where you are advertising this. This is Kentucky. It isn’t San Francisco. It isn’t LA. It’s not New York.

‘You need to rethink this and I highly suggest you take this disgusting top-left photo out of your advertisement. I don’t wish your company ill. I like to see small companies succeed and thrive and thanks to our president they are doing that, but it’s not helping you to put something as disgusting and as an abomination in an advertisement. So, just something fr you to think about. Thank you for listening. Bye.’

In a Facebook post, Hilliard said she was ‘left grappling all weekend’ by the message.

There’s numerous a few ways to deal with such an incident, with one solution being to ignore the message and another being to draw attention to it. ‘I knew it was an important moment and one that I had to share but I wanted to be sure I did so with careful consideration,’ Hilliard said.

She created a now-viral video, which includes voice mail audio, followed by a heartfelt message from Hilliard, and concluding with a gallery of images featuring the gay couple and uplifting music.

There’s no doubt Hilliard’s intentions are in, um, ‘good faith’ – attempting to raise awareness about LGBT rights, and what’s considered outdated views by some progressive members of the community. However, the whole exercise has proved extremely fruitful from an online marketing perspective.

The video has been viewed 147,000 times, and Hilliard’s Facebook post garnered 546 comments, 744 likes, and 1800 shares.

While Facebook doesn’t display the number of new likes a business receives, it’s safe to say the post attracted Wandering Elm Photography scores of new followers.

Such organic engagement doesn’t come cheap on social media these days.

This isn’t the first time a clash of ideologies between a progressive wedding photographer and anti-gay marriage individual became a marketing hit. In 2015 US wedding photographer, Clinton Brentwood Lee, shared a Facebook message exchange with a client who cancelled his shoot due to the photographer’s support of marriage equality. Lee’s response garnered a whopping 27,000 new Facebook followers.

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