Advertisements Featuring Gay Couples Becoming More Common in Retail Industry
- Nov. 27, 2012
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When University of Kansas student Timmy Hewitt sees an advertisement featuring a heterosexual couple it “fades to the background” and he simply cannot relate to it, he says. Hewitt is the vice president of, Delta Lamda Phi, KU’s only openly gay fraternity, and he says that advertisements with two men or two women are more normal. “That’s the couple I imagine,” he says.
During the 2012 election, the gay community scored several wins as three new states legalized same-sex marriage, the sixth openly gay member of congress was elected and Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay politician elected to the U.S. Senate. Although the issue of gay marriage remains a polarizing topic in the United States, the increasing visibility of gay, lesbian and transgendered people in society has led several retail companies to start targeting the gay market with their advertising.
Retail giants have begun featuring same-sex couples and transgender models in their advertising campaigns.
The trend has been criticized as being less about creating a culture of LGBT equality and more about increasing revenues. But according to Bob Witeck, President of Witeck Communications, Inc., that’s a good thing. Witeck, who is considered among the top minds in the LGBT marketing and PR community, says any company that doesn’t try to connect with gay households is simply “leaving money on the table,” because gay people exist and they want ads that look like them and reflect their lifestyle.
“These marketers are simply saying we want to be inclusive,” Witeck says. “We want to have people of all races, backgrounds, ages, demographics and we want couples who are gay as much as we want couples who are heterosexual.”
This year alone, gay households have spent an estimated $790 billion, according to Witeck Communications, Inc. There is also a considerable amount of brand loyalty among LGBT adults: 23 percent say they have switched products or services in the past year because a different company was more supportive of the LGBT community. Additionally, 71 percent of gay and lesbian people said they would remain loyal to that brand even if it were costlier or more inconvenient than others.
Here’s a look at four companies that are broadening their consumer base by appealing to the LGBT market.
This retail giant recently announced that its holiday marketing campaign would be called “Love Comes in Every Shade,” featuring actors, musicians and celebrities showcasing various types of love. They recruited singer Rufus Wainwright his husband artistic director Jörn Weisbrodt to celebrate “married love.”
The ad features the two of them with looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, along with the words “Love comes in every shade.”
Previously, Gap debuted a billboard in Los Angeles that featured real-life gay couple Rory O’Mally, star of “The Book of Mormon,” and his boyfriend Gerold Schroeder. The ad shows the two men holding each other while wearing the same t-shirt and the phrase “Be One” next to it.
In response to the ad, One Million Moms posted a letter on its website expressing their condemnation for the new advertisements, saying, “Supporting Gap is not an option until they decide to remain neutral in the culture war. Gap needs to seriously consider how their immoral advertising affect the youth of our nation.”
However according to marketing and PR expert Meredith Munger, neutral is not something that retailers like the GAP are very interested in being.
“Obviously any company that takes a political stance on any topic runs risks of alienating certain segments of the population,” says Munger, “but those companies take very calculated risks and they tend to know what they’re doing.”
When JC Penney selected Ellen DeGeneres as its spokeswoman last spring, it was part of a larger rebranding overhaul taking place in the company. “I think Ellen is someone we all trust,” CEO Ron Johnson told the Associated Press. “She’s loveable, likeable, honest and funny, but at her soul, we trust her.”
Almost immediately following the announcement, the ultra-conservative group One Million Moms started a campaign demanding that DeGeneres be removed as spokeswoman because her openly gay sexuality offended their traditional family values. In response, JC Penney not only stuck by DeGeneres as its spokeswoman choice, but it also released a Mothers’ Day ad in its next catalogue featuring two married lesbians.
One Million Moms wasn’t very keen on that and started calling for a boycott on JC Penney stores. In retaliation, JC Penney released another pro gay marriage ad, this time in its Fathers’ Day catalogue featuring two dads with their two children.
American Apparel has a reputation for creating clothes that speak to cultural and political issues, as evidenced by its “Legalize LA” t-shirt line the company started to support pro-immigration laws in California. American Apparel did it again when it played off that theme to create the “Legalize Gay” t-shirt line in support of the repeal of Proposition 8 that was passed in November 2008.
The company says on its website that, “American Apparel believes in freedom, expression and equality, things that are inherently condemned in the prohibition of gay marriage.”
So it came as no surprise when it entered the debate on gay rights one more time in June 2008 when it partnered with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to launch the “Gay O.K.” campaign in celebration of Gay Pride Month. This time though, the company took it a step further by featuring an openly transgender model in its advertising campaign, Isis King. King is a former America’s Next Top Model contestant and is a gay rights advocate.
Target felt the backlash from gay rights activists in 2010 when the company donated to a political group that supported a candidate who was openly opposed to gay marriage, but since has begun atoning for this by featuring a pro same-sex marriage ad in its 2012 wedding registry.
The ad depicts two confetti-covered, blissful looking grooms holding hands and dressed in suits with the phrase “Be Yourself, Together” overlaid across the front.
Target took further steps in support of gay marriage last June when it launched the “Wear It With Pride” campaign and donated proceeds to the Family Equality Council, which, as the name would suggest, is a pro-marriage equality foundation.
However, the Minneapolis-based corporation maintained a neutral position on the Minnesota marriage amendment that was defeated last week and would have make same-sex marriage illegal.
Feature image photo credit: Flickr.com/ronpaulrevolt2008