Starbucks | #WhatsYourName

Re-positioning Starbucks as an inclusive space where everyone is welcome.

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The theme of this year’s Channel 4’s Diversity in Advertising Award was challenging the lack of representation and stereotyping of the LGBT+ community in advertising. 

Based on the insight that only 0.3% of TV adverts feature a transgender person, despite the community making up an estimated 1% of the population, we saw an opportunity for Starbucks to re-ignite itself as a progressive brand, by building on it’s strong heritage with the LGBT+ community. 

The integrated brand campaign, #whatsyourname, focuses on the importance of identity and acceptance. It takes Starbucks’ signature act of writing people’s names on cups and brings that to life in the most powerful way. 

It builds on an insight that members of the transgender community often try out their new identity for the first time in a Starbucks store – an open and safe space where they feel welcomed. Whilst an everyday interaction for many, giving your name to a barista for the transgender community becomes a truly significant moment as they are recognised as who they want to be. 

Using the £1 million media awarded from Channel 4 we were able give airtime to this under-represented community and tell their unique stories. 

In order to land the work in an authentic and sensitive way, we worked closely with transgender individuals to develop the narratives, and throughout the production process. We casted real people, not actors, to genuinely bring the stories to life – both in the main TVC and in the accompanying ‘moving portraits’.

The 60 second TV ad depicts the challenges of ‘James’ who is transitioning and does not identify with his birth-name ‘Jemma’. Throughout the piece James is called ‘Jemma’ by others during everyday occurrences until the ad culminates with him trying out his chosen name for the first time at a Starbucks store. He responds as ‘James’ when the barista asks his name which is then written on a Starbucks cup, and called out when James’s coffee is ready. 

In addition to the TV ad we also gave a platform to real trans people so they could tell the stories behind their chosen names in a series of ‘Moving Portraits’ that played out on TV, online, OOH and instore.

To extend Starbucks continued involvement support, we partnered with the charity Mermaids who offer support to the young transgender community and their families. We consulted with them throughout the entire process, from insight and casting to the launch of a limited-edition fundraising cookie in Starbucks stores across the UK. Starbucks will be donating 50p of every ‘Mermaid cookie’ sold in a bid to raise over £100k for the charity. The cookie sales will help grow the Mermaid’s helpline service, which provides vital support to young trans people and their families, by allowing the charity to employ an additional helpline operator, extend its opening hours and expand its webchat service.


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