Mad Men Embrace LGBTs
Watch LOGO? Read The Advocate or Out? Go to Pride parades or hang out in gay bars? If so, you’ve been exposed; to images; in advertisements; that want to sell us a particular brand of car (Subaru), vodka (Absolut) or underwear (2(x)ist).
Consider it the ultimate capitalist compliment. After having long denied our very existence, the world of marketing has embraced gays and lesbians. Companies and the products they push have come to recognize and celebrate our spirit of independence; our unique take on life; and our statistically disproportionate disposable income!
Edge recently spoke with a few industry insiders to find out how Madison Avenue is pitching its wares to LGBTs as well as what brands were in the trenches before the rest of the world woke up and smelled the profit. . .
In The Niche
Steve Deitsch is president of REVERBERATE! Marketing and Communications, which represents a wide variety of entertainment clients. They’ve marketed and publicized LGBT-themed films, books, theater and nightlife as well as healthcare-related campaigns aimed at gay men. For Deitsch, the challenge of marketing an LGBT-themed product is to make sure there’s a variety of angles that both mainstream and gay media will pick up on.
Like the French, these marketing folks seem to have a word for everything. And in terms of moving product within the context of a particular demographic, they’ve actually got two words for it: Target Marketing.
Deitsch: "It used to be years ago, just the fact that you were advertising to the gay community would get a lot of attention. Now, that’s not the case. Now, you’ve got to tailor your ad to your specific media. You can’t show a guy and a girl in a gay magazine, You have to show two guys, the rainbow flag or something that says you’re talking to me."
Tom Watson, VP of ad sales for LOGO, says that while Subaru, Orbitz, Key West and Paris Hotels all run "targeted creative" ads with gay-specific content on the channel, "most of our clients run their mainstream ads. If it’s a beautiful, sexy car or wireless phone, that’s what is showcased."
From a business point of view, Watson says that products which have mass appeal are going to use imagery that will appeal to the masses: "Many clients don’t have a gay target. What we’ve done is convince those broader targeted advertisers that this niche audience is an important part of their customer base."
On the other hand, Watson points to a spot by Johnson & Johnson as an instance where the mainstream straight centric commercial that aired elsewhere wouldn’t work on LOGO: "Their KY brand lubricant had a mainstream ad with a hetero couple. It didn’t make sense on LOGO. So instead, we developed a creative that spoke to their brand objectives; sexy, romantic, and upscale."
Staying on message about the product rather than trying to kiss up to a specific audience may be a wise choice, given the fact that the LGBT community has a seemingly endless amount of subsets and special interests that are impossible to appeal to in their totality. "Gays are not homogenous." says Deitsch. "There’s football jocks, fashionistas, Broadway fans the bears, the leather queens. You can’t just go broadside to the gay population and say we’re going to reach everyone."
Deitsch’s company has promoted the same product to both mainstream and gay audiences. When it’s something that has explicit gay appeal, such as the film "Slutty Summer," the gay press gets a pitch emphasizing the hot men and the nudity - while the mainstream press hears about the universal themes of love and romance.
The "Slutty Summer" marketing campaign was primarily "aimed at gay media." says Deitsch. "But gay people also read mainstream publications, so we went to TV Guide, the New York Post, and the New York Times. They actually covered it; but I had to be a little more explicit that this is a romantic comedy. We positioned it as something they could relate to; a gay version of ’Sex and the City.’" That comparison of randy gay men to the beloved exploits of Carrie Bradshaw proved effective: "It just seems like the light bulb went off. They looked at it not as a sexual film, but this is something light and funny and charming and cute, which is what we wanted."
Photo: The ad for the film "Slutty Summer."