Gay Ads with Gay Content on the Rise

Discussion
May 16, 2006
George Anderson

By David Morse, President and CEO, New American Dimensions, LLC

(www.newamericandimensions.com)


Companies are spending more on the gay and lesbian market and ads are more gay-specific in content than ever before, according to the results of the twelfth annual Gay Press Report, a publication compiled by Prime Access Inc. and Rivendell Media Company.


To produce the report, the companies analyzed April editions of the 151 titles comprising the U.S. gay and lesbian press. April was used, as has been done in years past, because it tends to be a representative average of the year’s advertising activity. A total of 311 April issues were reviewed, since many titles publish more than once a month.


Some of the findings include:


  • Ad spending in the gay and lesbian press reached a record $212.3 million, a growth of 189 percent since 1996, representing 12.5 percent annually. In contrast, growth for all consumer magazines in the same period was only 42 percent, four percent annually.

  • Gay-specific ads comprised over half of all ads in the gay and lesbian press. Just three years ago, gay-specific content made up fewer than 10 percent of all ads.

  • Over 175 Fortune 500 brands advertised in 2005, up from 150 a year ago, and just 19 in 1994. The most popular categories among these brands were travel, financial services, automotive, fashion and entertainment.

  • In national gay and lesbian magazines, the percentage of gay-specific ads was 74.1 percent up from 59.1 percent last year. According to the authors, this is “a clear indication that the majority of national brands marketing to the gay and lesbian audience are creating unique advertising executions that appeal directly to these consumers’ sensibilities and mindset.”

  • The combined circulation of all gay and lesbian publications in 2005 was 3,420,555.

Moderator’s Comment: Can marketers afford to ignore gay and lesbian consumers? Should they be worried about backlash?


According to Packaged Facts’ 2004 study of the LGBT market, there were 15 million openly gay and lesbian adults living in the United States with a purchasing
power of $581 billion. That’s about seven percent of the entire adult population, a few percentage points shy of the proverbial one-in-ten concept popularized by Kinsey.


Studies such as the one conducted by Packaged Facts indicate that gays and lesbians are fiercely loyal to companies that advertise to the gay community,
have gay friendly corporate policies and donate to gay and lesbian causes. And as Coors found out some years ago, alienating gays can have drastic financial consequences – gays
boycotted Coors for years because of the conservatism of the Coors family. Coors is now one of the largest spenders in the LGBT market.


Still, backlash can be a reality. In April, George Anderson reported in RetailWire that Wal-Mart had been under attack by the American Family Association
(AFA), a conservative Christian organization, for selling Brokeback Mountain. It argued that by stocking the movie, Wal-Mart was “trying to help normalize homosexuality in society.”
Wal-Mart’s response: We won’t quit you.


In the words of philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” In the 1950’s, Philip Morris faced a boycott
when they sponsored a beauty contest that was won by a Black girl. When the Nat King Cole Show was canceled in 1957, Cole was quoted as saying “Madison Avenue…didn’t want
their products associated with Negroes.”


Gays and lesbians, like African Americans, know what it is like to be excluded by the mainstream. That is why it is so appreciated when companies take a
stand.
– David Morse – Moderator

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12 Comments on "Gay Ads with Gay Content on the Rise"


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Daryle Hier
Guest
Daryle Hier
13 years 3 months ago

I don’t believe there’s a point being made here. This sub group is still very small and marketing should always being based on the whole, though always considering the aggregate (the percentages differ from other research). Backlash is real and that isn’t being brought into the equation.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
13 years 3 months ago

No, marketers shouldn’t ignore anyone, but they have to be careful how they address them. For example, my bet is that the “Black girl” who won that beauty contest in the 1950s was, in reality, an African-American woman — unless of course the contest was only open to young women under the age of 12.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
13 years 3 months ago

Building on Ryan’s comment… Yes, we all remember the disgusting sight of Bull Connor fire hosing the LAMBDA march, not to mention the disgrace of so many decades of “Straight/Gay” drinking fountains in our nation’s capital….one thing those advocating greater marketing efforts to the Gay community should NOT do is make claims of parity w/African-Americans: it is as presumptuous as it is false, and is likely to generate its own backlash.

That having been said (and back to the question asked), how – or even if – a company markets to a specific sub-group is largely dependent on what they sell: if a product appeals only to that sub-group, or they have (somehow) been missed in a general marketing effort, then targeting makes sense; otherwise it’s probably a non-issue; and for those same reasons, I think it will remain Bill and Jane – as to opposed to Bill and Bruce – that we see cuddling up under those designer sheets during the commercial breaks.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
13 years 3 months ago

There will always be backlash against some segment of society by another segment. That is pretty much a fact of life. There really is no ethical or practical reason why the possibility of backlash should cause any group to be deliberately isolated, ignored or devalued. If people of any religious, ethnic or other type of group have money and want to spend it, it is incumbent on retailers to find a way to help them.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
13 years 3 months ago
They certainly can’t afford to ignore them and they can expect backlash…they can expect backlash not only from those who don’t support gay lifestyles, but they can also expect backlash from within the gay community. This is exactly what happens with ethnic marketing and other forms of target marketing. African Americans for example will look at certain casting choices and creative choices in ads created for African Americans and debate the choices. Hispanic advertising raises a storm of backlash from those who are against using the Spanish language in the US and from those within the Hispanic community who object to certain images that they find stereotypical or “old school.” Marketers cannot shy away from backlash. They must continue to work to authentically speak to and illustrate consumer groups that make up today’s social fabric. To market to the gay community solely as a token gesture designed for economic gain is certain to result in poor choices. To market to the gay community because this is a vibrant part of the consumer base of many… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
13 years 3 months ago

Sometimes backlash is good because it just generates free advertising. As time passes on, gay lifestyles are becoming more accepted. Marketers should focus on their customers and not worry too much about a small minority of anti-gay extremists.

David Morse
Guest
David Morse
13 years 3 months ago

Ryan, point well taken.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
13 years 3 months ago

A lot of attention is given to the way “marketers” reach out (or don’t) to various ethnic groups, gays, etc. The fact is that retailers are the real marketers these days as they design, source, and promote their own brands at record rates. Retailers are using data insights to create very specific consumer profiles that in turn are driving private label creation, advertising, and store environment.

So, let’s see if Wal-Mart expands upon “Gracie” and “Norma” and Best Buy looks beyond “Buzz” and “Barry”…what name would befit a lesbian soccer mom? An interracial male couple? If retailers are serious about covering all bases, they will eventually have to “go there.”

Mark Burr
Guest
13 years 3 months ago

Well said, Craig.

Mark Lilien
Guest
13 years 3 months ago

It’s clear that anti-gay backlash numbers are weak and getting weaker. The number of people picketing and protesting LGBT events is often only a handful, if there are any protestors at all. Any American can establish an organization and send press releases, but when that organization can’t muster more than 7 protestors when the LGBT organizations muster thousands at one time, even those business people that shy from controversy may end up feeling safe enough to run an ad in a same-sex publication. Look at news stories covering LGBT events. Often 1,000 LGBT people show up alongside a handful of red-faced protestors. Furthermore, most anti-gay bigots don’t read same-sex literature. To an extent, an advertiser can stay in the closet if they only advertise to LGBT people in LGBT publications.

Justin Time
Guest
13 years 3 months ago

Kraft Foods weathered criticism for sponsoring the upcoming Gay Games in Chicago.

I feel that ads will continue to be reader specific, with more gay oriented ads from consumer oriented companies; be it cars, liquor, mattresses, grills, etc. finding their way on gay websites and other gay publications.

Steve Anderson
Guest
Steve Anderson
13 years 3 months ago

This category always will attract controversy, in my opinion. The culturally conservative, religious undercurrent of this country (about 65-70% of the U.S. population) simply will not accept the gay/lesbian movement as a legitimate component of “diversity.” Such a strategy may work in urban areas in the Northeast and California (and even there only in select neighborhoods), but in the rest of America there is great danger of backlash.

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