ShanghaiPRIDE: Holding Hands



Client: ShanghaiPRIDE
Category: Nonprofits & Government
Agency: Wunderman Shanghai
Country: China
Award Entry Year: 2016


Campaign Summary

The word “gay” is still taboo in China. Few people know what it is or what it stands for -- and for years being gay was illegal. The only certainty is that being LGBT in China is generally not accepted by society. 

ShanghaiPRIDE is a not-for-profit organization with the sole purpose of building awareness and legitimacy of the LGBT community in China. For its festival ShanghaiPRIDE 2015, the organizers wanted to humanize the LGBT community “and educate Chinese society” to make being gay more acceptable. Social media played a key role in Wunderman Shanghai’s campaign.


Objective and Context

ShanghaiPRIDE is an unsanctioned, week-long series of activities that started in 2008. In the past, many of PRIDE's events were called off by the police. There have never been major sponsors because of the fear of government backlash. Exposure has grown year-over-year since its inception, including event attendance, some corporate involvement, and media coverage.

For 2015, event organizers wanted to take advantage of this momentum to drive increased awareness of the LGBT community, using China’s most-used social media channels, WeChat and Sina Weibo. The idea was to augment digital efforts to engage the target audience and drive participation, not only online but at the many events that happened during ShanghaiPRIDE 2015. The campaign also included print advertising to broaden awareness in general-interest publications, supplemented with PR efforts.

The primary audience was the general public in Shanghai who were not familiar with the LGBT community. The secondary audience was the LGBT community, their families, and friends.

Through social media, the organizers hoped the campaign would go nationwide, but without a media budget the best they were expecting to reach was the city and the LGBT community, especially the parents with LGBT children.

Wunderman Shanghai knew the key to success for all LGBT awareness campaigns was to humanize the gay community by personalizing human connections among straights and gays. The more people are aware that friends, relatives, colleagues and neighbors are gay, the more they are willing to accept them as equal members of society. 

In China, this would become a huge challenge since ShanghaiPRIDE is an unsanctioned organization and not allowed to promote through regular media channels.


Creative Strategy

The campaign focused primarily on digital and social channels for their ability to reach the broadest audience possible in the most cost-efficient manner. These channels were deemed the best for integrating user-generated content, as well as for the potential of viral interaction and campaign amplification.

With more than 600 million users in China, WeChat was chosen for its ability to support the creative theme as well as to create buzz. Weibo was used in order to track social conversations around the hashtag #ShanghaiPRIDE as well as to see linkage to other hashtags and social trends.

Mobile was clearly the easiest way for people to participate in the movement. The main message of the mobile campaign was “Love Is Our Future.”

Kicking off with videos using real-life interviews, the campaign moved viewers with stories from the heart, featuring people talking about love:

  • Charlene and Darick, a married couple.
  • Daniel, a single gay man.
  • Fengba, father of a gay son.

Next, users were invited to hold hands online to show their support. The agency believed that the act of holding hands with a loved one was a simple and personalized way of humanizing the movement.  All people had to do was pledge their support by taking a photo of themselves holding hands with someone else.

By posting online with the hashtag #ShanghaiPRIDE, each photo became a pledge that added a minute to a pair of virtual hands that remained entwined as long as people showed support. If people stopped sending photos, the hands would separate. For those hesitant to share a photo, simply clicking a link on WeChat was a pledge, too.

To broaden the campaign’s reach it was integrated into corporate sponsors’ mobile websites as well as on their official WeChat accounts, calling for people to pledge their love.



In just one week, more than 820,000 hashtags supporting ShanghaiPRIDE were posted on Sina Weibo and WeChat. The campaign spread to Facebook and Instagram and reached global participation.  It was enough to keep the virtual hands together for 1.5 years.

People all over China showed their support, which led to a 59 percent increase of fans on the ShanghaiPRIDE official WeChat account, and a ten-fold increase in parents coming to events to support their children and the LGBT community.

Reaction was so positive that Guangzhou held its first ever GuangzhouPRIDE event in July 2015. In addition, IBM signed on as a corporate sponsor for the event – a first in ShanghaiPRIDE’s history.

ShanghaiPRIDE saw a tenfold increase in the number of parents participating in ShanghaiPRIDE events. By encouraging participation through the simple act of holding hands, Wunderman Shanghai was able to help legitimize the movement -- as well as allow parents to come out and show support for their children.



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