For anyone who hasn’t seen the Kiss Cam at a sporting event, it’s usually an awkward minute-and-a-half interlude between game action when stadium cameras zoom in on couples in the crowd with some sort of heart filter, and keep them on the jumbotron until they kiss.
There’s usually at least one couple on a first date who pretend like they don’t see themselves (or at least one of them pretends), a few older couples that smooch quickly and get it over with, and about six different guys saying, “She’s my sister!” Every now and then there’ll be a dramatic dip followed by a passionate kiss or even a marriage proposal.
The group Ad Council, in tandem with the National Football League, just used this staple of live sports entertainment to send a message about love and humanity, as part of their Love Has No Labels campaign.
Shot at the Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 29, the ad features the Kiss Cam segment, but with a twist. As Hundred Waters’ “Show Me Love [Skrillex Remix]” plays, the camera frames a man and the woman to his left in a giant heart, assuming they’re a couple. Neither moves (potential first date situation). But a few seconds later, the camera follows the man as he turns to his right and kisses the man sitting next to him.
The crowd is delightfully surprised.
As the music crescendos and stadium-goers continue to cheer, we see couples, family members, and friends of all ages, abilities, genders, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and fandoms (even the mascots take part) show their affection for each other, effectively turning the cliché Kiss Cam into the first Love Has No Labels Cam.
We’re left with the message, “Love has no religion. Love has no age. Love has no gender. Love has no disability. Love has no race.”
The ad is notable for its first couple, not because they’re gay, but because we actually see them kiss. Intimate displays between men are fairly taboo in modern media.
The show "Modern Family," which started in 2009, for instance, is considered a landmark television show in terms of gay representation, but the critically acclaimed comedy didn’t show the characters Mitch and Cam kiss until the second season after fans campaigned for it.
The fact that the camera assumes the man and the woman are a couple (and probably the viewer, too) testifies to heteronormativity. The crowd, too, in spite of its embrace of the couple, is surprised when the man reveals he is gay. Essentially, we assume people are heterosexual unless denoted otherwise — no one “comes out” as straight.
The two minute and 40 second video also devotes about 20 seconds to a woman wearing an “Orlando Survivor” t-shirt, in reference to the shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse on June 12, 2016, during which 49 people were killed.
The two-word phrase adds a bitter-sweet aspect to the already emotionally charged video, by reminding us that although we can literally pack stadiums with individuals who support diversity and free love, people still face challenges everyday just to be who they are.
Ad Council released a similar ad for the Love Has No Labels campaign for Valentine’s Day in 2015. That one, set to Mary Lambert’s “She Keeps Me Warm,” traded the Kiss Cam for a giant x-ray machine. We see skeletons dancing, hugging, and kissing before the people reveal themselves in all their diversity, showing that when you remove all of the external signals that cause hate, judgement, and bias, love is universal.
In addition to Love Has No Labels, Ad Council campaigns on topics like disaster relief, education, anti-bullying, and sexual assault prevention, to name a few.
Watch the Kiss Cam ad here: