Taking Pride In Advertising
Advertising in the LGBT community.
It's Pride month in Toronto - a time for us to gaily celebrate the LGBT community. In honour of this wonderful celebration I thought it'd be fitting to briefly write about the history of "Gayvertising".
It’s Pride month in Toronto – a time for us to gaily celebrate the LGBT community. In honour of this wonderful celebration I thought it’d be fitting to briefly write about the history of “Gayvertising”. After a century of incorporating so-called “gay-vague” and “integral coding” into advertising campaigns, companies are finally coming out with a more direct approach in portraying the men and women they wish to reach.
In the 90s, companies used integral coding to experiment with gay-targeted ads in mainstream media. Take Subaru for example who captured the rear-end of one of their cars in a print ad with the license plate reading P-TOWN. Upon showing this ad to their straight employees no one got the reference, but research showed that gay people immediately knew this was short form for the “popular gay vacation destination, Provincetown, Mass” (Klara, 2013). Along with Subaru, many companies were trying to prove that there was a gay market, but by using code language/objects they all lacked true openness on the part of their brands.
Then there was gay-vague advertising that took an artfully constructed scenario that’s obviously gay - except when it isn’t (Klara, 2013). Take the 1997 Volkswagen commercial “Sunny Afternoon”, which aired during the famous coming-out episode of Ellen. The relationship between the two men in this commercial is ambiguous, and could lead to multiple interpretations. Gay-vague techniques were used as a way to reach out to many demographics without alienating any of them.
Take the 1992 Calvin Klein ads featuring Mark Wahlberg who was shown wearing only his skin-tight boxer briefs. Neil Kraft, SVP of Creative Services at Calvin Klein insisted this wasn’t a gay ad, but when finding that sales were steadily increasing because of gay men he didn’t discourage it. Kraft believes it’s foolish for any brand to exclusively target gay men, as they are only a small percentage of the population, but at the same time agrees that it’s “disingenuous for brands to say that they don’t want to appeal to them" (Klara, 2013). If we’re talking business, Kraft makes sense, but vaguely reaching out to the gay community is fast becoming a marketing ploy that companies today are putting on the back burner. Today, companies are taking PRIDE in their “Gayvertising”.
Take the 2012 JC Penny Father’s Day ad featuring a same-sex married couple with their kids, Ray-Ban’s 2007 “Never Hide” campaign featuring two men holding hands walking down the street or Gap’s 2012 “Be One” ad showing two young men snuggled inside a T-shirt. Now more than ever companies feel comfortable reaching out and connecting with their LGBT consumers. While it seems like the millennium introduced a new wave of “Gayvertising”, it’s actually been years in the making. See for yourself!
Happy Gay Pride to all! To all Happy Gay Pride!
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