On Brief: gal–dem × Katy Wang

Moya Lothian-Mclean

On Brief is part of Inspire, a partnership between Creative Review and Meta to showcase outstanding creative work on Facebook and Instagram. Creatives are paid for their involvement in On Brief. For more content from Inspire, see creativereview.co.uk/inspire; gal-dem.com; instagram.com/watykang
“We chose headlines that spoke to pop culture; almost viral moments,” she continues. “Like Megxit: we’ve all been horrified by how Meghan Markle has been treated by some media outlets but may not have been able to vocalise it. We reveal what racist, sexist or transphobic stories could look like if the media was more accepting and progressive.”
As part of Creative Review’s latest On Brief project, Richards and her team worked with the Meta Creative Shop team to develop a campaign strategy for Facebook and Instagram that could raise awareness of gal–dem’s mission, while driving subscriptions. “We wanted people to understand the value gal–dem brings,” she continues. “Our values, the space we take up, the general lack of diversity and inclusion in the media landscape.”

Kemi Alemoru

Studies by City University and the Sutton Trust reveal an industry that’s overwhelmingly white (94%), and 55% male. “The large majority of commissioning editors are also from fee-paying schools,” adds Richards. “That leads to a clear bias in reporting. Traditional media won’t see stories that affect marginalised communities because they’re not represented in their teams. In other cases, they simply don’t care.”
Animated frame-by-frame in Adobe Animate, the ripping headlines were then composited in After Effects. “We duplicated and mirrored the shape to create the ‘hole’ left behind,” reveals Wang. “Then we applied a camera move in After Effects to transition through the hole to get to the next frame.”
“The ripping headline plays into the idea of us being part of – but trying to change – the media industry,” reflects Richards. “It’s a fun way of suggesting that these voices have always been here – they’re just hidden. And gal–dem helps to reveal them, making them louder and brighter for everyone.” While many of its commissioning editors cut their teeth on established titles such as Dazed, Stylist, the Guardian and Vice, gal–dem practices what it preaches with a diverse, inclusive contributor network. “Some of our writers are just starting out in journalism – either because they’re switching careers, or they’re young and it’s their first stab at it,” says Richards. “We’re not trying to be gatekeepers: we want to stay open as a space.”
Representing a broad range of perspectives too-little seen elsewhere, gal–dem publishes daily content online with a rigorous editorial process, as well as an annual print title, podcasts, events and more. But Richards points to gal–dem’s social channels as particularly beneficial when it comes to engaging its diverse community of readers: “It’s a two-way street,” she says. “We can see how people think and feel. Social media has been incredibly important for us to mobilise, find solace, and share information.”
“There’s such a small amount of time to grab attention with your message,” confirms Devin. “We see thousands of messages every day, so your assets must be memorable. To cut through the noise, you need to be as loud, bold, colourful, and simple as possible. When ads have lots of messages and it’s not clear what they’re saying, you soon lose momentum.”

Niellah Arboine

“We planned a full-funnel campaign,” explains Lucy Devin, creative strategist at Meta Creative Shop. “The concept we developed was ‘100% of the story’. Sometimes the media can be racist and discriminative, and gal–dem balances that out.”
Choosing who and what to feature for this part of the campaign was a particularly rewarding process. “We asked our editors to reflect on their writing career with gal–dem, and choose what they were most proud of,” recalls Richards. “In many cases they wouldn’t have been able to publish that piece, with the same authenticity, elsewhere. Seeing everyone’s reactions to their bylines in Katy’s style was lovely.”
“The biggest shifts politically, socially, environmentally and culturally tend to be felt the hardest by the most marginalised,” reflects Mariel Richards, gal–dem’s CEO. “If we rely on the news media to inform us on what we should do; where we should take a stand; what we should be angry about – and that media doesn’t reflect our diverse society – then there’s obviously something wrong.”
As smartphone screens get ever larger and higher-resolution, Wang points out, so do people’s expectations for quality. “I find the canvas size for phones is always a bit bigger than you first imagine,” she says. “If you make your text and visuals too big, it can end up feeling a bit clunky when shown at that size.” Wang and de Bruin used various Photoshop brushes to add depth and texture to their animations, carefully refining the transitions between each frame to ensure they felt suitably dynamic and eye-catching. When you’re creating spaces to challenge and change something, it’s easy to get bogged down in thinking about the hardest part of these experiences
gal–dem has five sections covering a broad range of experiences and happenings across Politics, First Person, Culture, Life and Music. “We want to publish things that are joyful as well as challenging,” concludes Richards. “When you’re creating spaces to challenge and change something, it’s easy to get bogged down in thinking about the hardest part of these experiences. There are plenty of things to celebrate too.”
“Katy’s style felt aligned to gal–dem’s art direction. It was a really collaborative process,” says Devin. “Her work is vibrant, playful and fun, but also super communicative and informative,” agrees Richards. “I love how she uses icons, colours and motifs to tell stories.”
Founded to counter the ingrained bias found in the UK media industry, gal–dem gives a much-needed platform to stories from people of colour and marginalised genders, who are otherwise underrepresented by traditional outlets.

For the journalist portraits, the selected articles were a valuable source of inspiration. “We went for simple, easy-to-understand symbols that would be instantly recognisable and reflect the article they wrote,” she explains. “One piece is about being addicted to your phone, for instance, so we animated a long line of phones orbiting around the writer.”

Wang and de Bruin were given a deck of rough key frames to describe the assets needed, but they had enough creative freedom to devise their own compositions and designs to suit the content. “It’s always challenging working within the constraints of social media stories,” says Wang. “You have to front-load the animation with something eye-catching to grab attention, ensure the overall pace is good, and wrap it all up in 15 seconds max.”
Once the brief was nailed down, Creative Review brought London-based animation director Katy Wang on board to help bring the campaign to life. Working with her regular collaborator and co-director Gabriel de Bruin, Wang drew on gal–dem’s distinctive brand palette to create a vivid, energetic look and feel.
The creative application split into three main parts: general awareness assets that made use of arresting industry statistics; a series of perspective-challenging ads in which one-note mainstream media headlines are ripped away to reveal gal–dem’s fresh take; and finally, a spotlight on some favourite bylines from selected gal–dem editors.

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