Amazon Ads and the Ad Council redefined Alexa’s meaning of love

February 18, 2022 | By Matt Miller, Sr. Copywriter

The "Love Has No Labels” campaign from Amazon Ads and the Ad Council.

When Dianne Hodges moved into a new neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago in 2009, the local community garden had fallen into disrepair. “They were just throwing trash into the garden,” Hodges remembered. “There were guns and drugs stashed there.”

People were moving out of the neighborhood to get away from the hate and anger, said Hodges, who uses they/them pronouns. But Hodges, a community organizer and energy facilitator, believes that love has the capacity to change lives. They called a friend and got to work clearing out the garden. “We saw the opportunity; we saw the possibilities,” Hodges said.

It took six months just to clear the trash out of the garden. Once it was clean, Hodges worked with other community organizers to invest in the garden to turn it into a safe space for the neighborhood and the children attending school a block away.

Since then, the garden has become a hub of local activity, pride, and a source of good radiating throughout the neighborhood. The South Merrill Community Garden hosts programming for children, seniors, and families. There are vegan cooking demonstrations, art installations, poetry readings, and concerts. The garden donates the food it grows to members of the community who need it.

“The love that I gave unconditionally began to change the consciousness of some of the people there,” said Hodges, who the community calls the Queen of South Shore.

Hodges’ philosophy of love and the power of creating safe spaces for others serves as part of the new “Love Has No Labels” campaign from Amazon Ads and the Ad Council. Now, when people ask Amazon’s Alexa, “What is love?” Alexa will share a response from one of the campaign’s eight people from different backgrounds. They all describe a time when someone’s everyday act of love made them feel seen, heard, loved, and included. Amazon Ads and the Ad Council did this to inspire audiences to take meaningful action towards creating a more inclusive world.

Dianne Hodges in the South Merrill Community Garden.

Real people, real voices

When users ask Alexa, “What is love?” one of the responses is Hodges’ voice with their own definition: “Love is when we create safe spaces for Black women.”

It’s a response informed by their own life and work in their community.

“When I say creating safe spaces for Black women, it’s creating a space—whether it’s a garden or a community center—where they can feel loved and nurtured,” Hodges explained. “The garden is a living, breathing anchor of love.”

Along with Alexa’s updated definition of love, Amazon Ads worked with the Ad Council to create a short film that dives deeper into the stories and lives of the voices behind the campaign. For the video, award-winning director Rodney Lucas returned to his native Chicago, where he found the group and captured their lived-in experiences. Viewers see people like Hodges walking through their garden, along with Cheer, a software developer who immigrated to the US from Nanchang City, China, and Rajee, a disability activist who says in the video, “Love is supporting people in pursuing their dreams, no matter their abilities.” Lucas, who is known for his intimate telling of Black stories, captures these people in their own communities with empathy and humanity.

“The one thing most of us have in common—regardless of socioeconomic status or where you’re from—is that we all want to be loved, and we all have our different way of articulating that,” Lucas said. “I thought it would be neat to work with Amazon to find the most diverse palette of everyday people and give them the option to say what their meaning of love is.”

For Lucas, it was important to film this in the South Side of Chicago, for the production crew to stay in hotels there and to eat at restaurants there, and “add to the economy of the South Side and really be part of the community,” he said. “I think that spiritual energy is reflected in what we shot. That’s why I wanted to be part of this. I saw these films as groundbreaking moments within advertising, but also a uniquely important initiative for a Black director to lead.”

From its conception, to the voices it highlighted, to the crew behind the scenes, diversity, equity, and inclusion were at the core of this campaign.

Launched in 2015, the Ad Council’s Love Has No Labels campaign has focused on promoting “acceptance and inclusion of all people across race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age and ability.” For the past five years, Amazon has donated media to the Ad Council.

“We’re honored to partner with Amazon and Alexa to redefine what love means by bringing diverse stories of inclusion directly into people’s homes. Our hope is that when audiences ask about love, they will hear voices that inspire them to take action in their communities,” said Ad Council President and CEO Lisa Sherman. "This collaboration is right in line with the goal of Love Has No Labels—to flood culture with messages of unbiased love across race, age, gender identity, religion, ability, and sexual orientation.”

Searching for the definition of love

Alexa has been asked millions of questions about love.

“We knew there was a high level of engagement around Alexa and love,” said Rob Alley, the Head of Amazon Ads’ Brand Innovation Lab, Telco and Entertainment. “But when we asked Alexa about love, we knew we could make the responses more personal and human. We felt there was a great opportunity for Alexa to pass the microphone to our customers from various backgrounds and identities and express what love means to them.”

Brand Innovation Lab set out to find a production company and director to bring the campaign to life. “Rodney just had this beautiful, organic, authentic treatment, with the work he’d done in the past,” Alley said. “We made sure that from the concept through the production that the intent behind this was to be very inclusive.”

When Lucas returned to the South Side of Chicago with the product team, he led the search for the voices behind the campaign. “I’m always looking to create this living room-type atmosphere,” Lucas said. “I want that process to be as completely service driven and honorable as possible. Literally, as if you’re a guest in my living room.”

Hodges, for example, was nominated by members of their community to take part in the campaign.

Brands making an impact

With the launch of the campaign in early February, timed to Valentine’s Day, the campaign will run throughout 2022, giving Alexa customers in the US the opportunity to hear definitions of love from Hodges and others.

“The campaign is a wonderful opportunity to show the variations of love. I was very honored to even be in that group of people,” Hodges said. “I know people need this. And I want people to know that it only takes one person to start a movement.”

According to a study from Environics Research and Amazon Ads, 90% of consumers in both the US and Europe say they appreciate when a brand is a responsible corporate citizen. Additionally, 60% of consumers in both regions are willing to pay more for a brand that stands for a social issue that they consider important.

“I thought it was beautiful that with Amazon, there was such a high level of respect and diligence,” Lucas said. “We live in a time where brands can be part of the greater conversation. I think there’s a higher level of brand responsibility.”

This type of responsibility is at the core of Amazon, Alley noted.

“We created an entire leadership principle around this. And that means it’s pretty powerful and part of our DNA. That requires some thoughtful action around it,” Alley said. “It was important for us to make this as inclusive as possible. Love is unique. It’s very complex, and it’s different for everyone. I think this is a celebration of that.”

Amazon will continue working with the Ad Council in 2022.

For now, Alexa’s definition of love is a bit broader, and a bit more human.