Cannes Lions

The Genderless Voice

VIRTUE, Copenhagen / COPENHAGEN PRIDE / 2019

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Overview

Background

“Copenhagen Pride works to challenge the gender binary and combat strong, harmful and often very limiting gender stereotypes that fail to recognize non-binary gender identities. We, alongside Pride movements all over the world, believe that gender is a highly complex spectrum and that people should have the freedom to self-identify and the opportunity to see themselves reflected and recognized both in society and in their everyday life - binary and non-binary alike.

We didn’t brief Virtue, but instead, they came to us with a powerful idea that resonated with our core and mission. With Q - a neutral voice with no preassigned gender - we aim to get the attention of leading technology companies who work with AI to ensure they are aware that a gender binary normativity excludes many people."

- Thomas Rasmussen, Head of Communication, Pride Copenhagen

Idea

Boot up the options for your digital voice assistant of choice and you’re likely to find two options for the gender you prefer interacting with: male or female. The problem is, that binary choice isn’t an accurate representation of the complexities of gender. Some people don’t identify as either male or female, and they may want their voice assistant to mirror that identity.

As third gender options are being recognized across the globe, it feels stagnant that technology is still stuck in the past only providing two binary options.

That’s why Copenhagen Pride is launching Q, the world’s first genderless voice for voice AI.

Created for a future where we are no longer defined by gender.

Strategy

We launched both a launch film for context and a piece of video and audio content with only Q speaking - specifically designed to fuel the conversation and debate on how the voice sounds, replicating the blue/gold dress phenomenon.

Alongside this, we launched an interactive website where Q reads an open letter calling on the need for implementation across voice assisted products.

Built into the website was a sharing mechanic. Once the letter finishes, users are prompted to lend their voice and share to get Q implemented by Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. The sharing dialogue automatically tags the companies, with a simple pre-populated message: Meet Q -The First Genderless Voice.

Execution

Led by the agency, a team of linguists, technologists, and sound designers began by recording the voices of two dozen people who identify as transgender or nonbinary. After testing several different versions across 4600 participants, the result was a voice that was perceived genderneutral by the majority. The voice sits between 145 and 175 hertz, a range that research shows we perceive as more gender-neutral.

The voice lives on www.genderlessvoice.com and was supported by a launch film on all major social channels, a global PR push, and a launch event at SXSW hosted by Equal AI.

Within the first week, Q had traveled across the globe in media like Wired, The Guardian, BBC, Japan Today, The Hindu and El Pais reaching more than 6.7 BN eyeballs.

KEY DATES

04/07/18: The idea of a genderless voice was born at the agency.

19/07/18: Linguist and pH. D. Anna K. Joergensen joined the team as a consultant

19/10/18: Sound designer Nis Norgaard joined the team to help create the voice

21/10/18: Researcher Julie Carpenter joined the team as a consultant

07/11/18: Creative technology studio Koalition joined the team

04/12/18: Recording of voices and digital alteration

18/12/18: First survey of voices

7/01/19: Second survey of updated voices

17/01/19: Third survey of updated voices

31/01/19: Copenhagen Pride joined the project as the official partner

07/02/19: Equal AI invites Q to launch at their SXSW event

8/02/19: Final voice created

25/02/19: Digital modulation of voice finalized on genderlessvoice.com

11/03/19: Wired launched an exclusive story at 11.45 AM

11/03/19: Official global launch of Q at SXSW at 06 PM.

Outcome

Report from mentions.com and muckrack.com

From March 4th 2019 to March 28th 2019 generated

Total reach: 6.7 BN

Total shares: +50.000

Average shares: 515

Journalist reached: 1,380,571

Companies who reached out to implement Q: +25

General press highlights:

The Telegraph, NowThis, The Mirror, CNBC, The Guardian, Yahoo News, VICELAND, Bloomberg, Daily Mail, Evening Standard, ABC, BBC, NPR, El Pais, Financial Times, GQ, Trendhunter, The Inquirer, Metro, MSN, Japan Today and The Hindu.

Tech press highlights:

Fast Company, Wired, The Future Laboratory, TechCrunch, Techrabyte, Geek.com and Techtimes

Industry press highlights:

AdAge, Adweek, Campaign Live, It’s Nice That, Design Taxi and Mumbrella.

*mentions.com and muckrack.com reports attached

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