Caitlyn Jenner delivered a stirring speech at this year's ESPY awards show, where she was honored for her work to raise awareness around the transgender community, and leading technology companies seized the opportunity to promote their brands. Both Google and Airbnb ran transgender-focused commercials during ABC's broadcast of the ceremony Wednesday night, while Pebble got in on the action with a tone-deaf tweet.
Google's ad, embedded above, was released online last month in support of Pride Month. It tells the story of a transgender man named Jake, who begins working out at a Kansas City gym to transform his body. The narrative then shifts to the gym itself, and how Google's small business services help raise its profile. With a run-time of more than two minutes, it is one of the longest commercials to ever air on ABC, according to the company.
Airbnb's 60-second spot strikes a more universal tone, with a narrator reciting messages of acceptance as a toddler walks toward the door of a house. The ad is part of the company's "Mankind" marketing campaign, which debuted online earlier this week to much confusion. The cryptic slogans that Airbnb tweeted struck some as creepy ("Sleep in their beds, so you may know their dreams") but they make more sense within the context of last night's commercial.
Pebble didn't buy any ad time during last night's telecast, but it still felt compelled to chime in with a weird tweet about Jenner's dress and her "#DadBod." Pebble, which makes smartwatches, later tweeted an apology after receiving critical feedback on social media.
Missteps aside, last night's marketing campaigns suggest that companies are more willing to address marginalized communities and issues that were once seen as taboo. And that's a good thing.
This article has been updated to include an apology tweet from Pebble.