Bil Browning

Blood Money: Google's Dan Savage Commercial

Filed By Bil Browning | May 05, 2011 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: blood money, Dan Savage, Google Chrome, It Gets Better

I know this is going to make me unpopular (again), but here goes. While Google's Dan Savage commercial made other folks weepy, it sickens me.

When the ad came on during Glee at our house, we were hosting a small group of folks - some politically savvy and others just, well, not. The ad was booed and given cat-calls from around the room - including a guy I'll call Mr. Not Involved.

Why?

Because it wasn't an ad for the It Gets Better Project. It just wasn't. Everyone was excited for IGB when it started airing. Everyone thought, "How great that they're getting this commercial out there in a spot where it can really hit LGBT kids!"

But then we saw that it was actually an ad for a Google product and Dan Savage. They, literally, are trying to make dollars off of our children.

Since I've been critical before of all of the companies, celebrities and politicians making these videos solely for publicity reasons, I think it's important to clarify that the IGB project is important and worthwhile. My beef isn't with them. It's with the folks trying to cash in on our tribe's troubled youth.

As Mr. Not Involved said, "WTF? So the message is 'Don't kill yourself because you can't use our browser?'" It's not just a feel good "We're spending thousands of dollars to promote It Gets Better Project" ad. It's a "We're spending thousands to try and garner a larger share of browser users in a targeted demographic while tugging at your heartstrings" commercial.

They are, literally, from Google-owned YouTube ad views to gaining more browser users, making money off our hopeless bullied kids. They didn't even try to make it more about the project.

From the screenshot they chose to use for the YouTube video (which shows Dan Savage) to the description Google employees gave it on the YouTube site ("Beginning with one inspiring video, Dan Savage used the web to create the It Gets Better project--a movement that has generated thousands of uplifting videos that give hope to teens), Savage is the star and not IGB. There's not even a link to the IGB website or YouTube channel on the commercial's page - and they own the company hosting the video. How hard would that be?

Even at the end of the commercial, it doesn't give the IGB URL. It gives the Google Chrome URL. In fact, the only time you'll see the URL for the project it's supposedly touting starts at 31 seconds into a minute and a half commercial; very quickly someone types in the URL (in a Google Chrome browser!) and then it's gone in two seconds. That's it. Otherwise it's the YouTube URL you see repeatedly - a Google owned property.

If you didn't catch it, you'll have to Google it! How convenient is that!

The ad closes with "Dan Savage, messenger." It shows a (YouTube!) comment that says that Dan saved someone's life (not the IGB project). It opens with Dan. It closes with Dan. IGB is the fluff in between to make everyone feel good and not notice that the two products shown who are making money off of the IGB project are Dan Savage and Google/YouTube.

So what was the point of this commercial? Was it that Dan's a great guy? Chrome is a great browser? Or that I should go check out this project that viewers wouldn't know where to go except it's on YouTube? IGB was just something Dan happened to do according to the tagline of the commercial and not the star of the ad.

As a blogger, I understand how important the cult of personality can be when you're trying to build your online presence. Dan Savage, best known for turning conservative politician Rick Santorum's name into a word meaning "frothy anal sex byproduct," is a sex columnist and has a reputation as an online bully. He makes his income by selling Dan Savage Inc. When Google closes the commercial with a tagline about Dan Savage instead of the IGB Project, you can easily see what's more important - and it's not our children.

And that has nothing to do with making the world a safer place. That's making blood money off of teenagers bullied so often that they can't think of any way to make things better than suicide.


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We got a taste of that bulling yesterday from Dannys minions on twitter when we said the same thing... so get ready for some abuse.

I get it, and you probably have some good points here, but your hyperbole (specifically all the screams of "blood money" etc.) makes this read like it's a WND column.

It might have been motivated by profit, but neither Google or "Dan Savage Inc" are the first companies to use such a tactic. It's why beer companies sponsor gay pride parades - not because they truly care 100% about LGBT causes, but because we have fat wallets and they want us to spend money on their products.

Personally, I have no problem with this. Yes, it's a little self promotional for Chrome, but it's also just about the only way the IGB project is going to get national airtime during such a relevant show like Glee.

At first I was hey that's kind of cool google using it's ad for itself to promote IGB. But then the thought process set in and I saw it the same as you, promotion of Dan Savage and google using IGB as a tool to hit us emotionally.

Is there a difference between exploiting troubled LGBT youth to advertise for Google and exploiting troubled LGBT youth by posting a controversial blog entry (critical of something...what/who are you criticizing?) and consequently attracting page views?

We've all got a gig. Momma needs a new pair of shoes.


Patrick, are you really asking Bil what/who he's criticizing here? Seems pretty plain to me actually.

Are you also really comparing a critical blog article to a TV spot with an 800k+ price tag that *could have* actually been an altruistic gesture with minimal and unobtrusive corporate branding? Are you really telling Bil that by saying "Hey Dan and and Google, LGBT kids aren't props for your marketing departments" is the same as using LGBT kids as props in a marketing department?

Corporations DO NOT behave altruistically. It isn't possible. There is always - ALWAYS - an ulterior motive, usually marketing in nature. Corporations make charitable donations to attract consumers who support the same charities. Expecting them to pay for an IGB ad without branding it is naive.

There are dozens of things Google could have used to promote themselves and their browser. Could they have promoted IGB without promoting Savage? Sure - but the fact that they focused on IGB *AT ALL* is major brownie points in my book.

I'm in marketing - that's why I wrote what I did the way I did it. In the corporate world, "altruistic" = minimal and unobtrusive branding.

When I saw the ad, it was very clear to me that the ad was promoting a web browser, and the power of the web in general - and to make their point (that in today's virtual interconnected society, one person really can make a difference), they used IGB as a case study.

I don't feel as though Google is trying to make money off the backs of bullied gay kids. And yes, Dan as an individual was highlighted because Google's point (see above) plays into that nicely.

All of those clips were still thrilling to watch, and it's TRUE that without YouTube, the It Get's Better project wouldn't have been what it is. So, yeah, the ad was "around" IGB more than "about" it, but that *this* was the example they chose to use does speak volumes - about Google, and about Glee's demographic. (One wonders if they'd show that ad during a NASCAR race. I doubt it, but that would be extra wonderful.)

Instead of NASCAR, would you take an NBA championship? Savage has pretty much said that the commercial will be aired there, which, for all my mixed feelings about this video, I believe will do more good than harm.

I've been saying this for a while: Dan Savage has been using this project to boost his own fame and fortune, not because he actually cares about the wellbeing of LGBT teens. I don't care what his minions have to say about it: do your worst. You're only proving that he cares more about his own celebrity than any young kids - especially the transgender and bisexual ones, since he's a proven hater of both those groups. (Check my namelink if you don't believe me)

Hi Bill,
I wrote a post similar to yours yesterday and I totally agree.

Even though, I'm not a fan of Dan Savage and have issues with how he goes about things - this ad reeked of opportunism.

Don't try to sugar coat things, people will always see what they want, I'm afraid.

Glad there are other folks out there who realized.

FYI, I'm not the Alex in the previous comment. But I'm always glad to hear Alexes speak out.

On the substance of the post:

I dunno, I really don't see the issue w/ Savage on this. Is there some ego-boost here for him? Sure. There's no such thing as a truly charitable act.

Overall, does it make his project bad or not worthwhile? In my opinion, no. Glad he's doing it.

I still wouldn't call it a Dan Savage ad. It's a Google ad. They paid for it and they wouldn't have paid for it if they didn't think they'd make a few bucks off it.

There's a reason we want charitable organizations to be nonprofit - the profit motive poisons everything an organization does. Just look at the health insurance industry for a particularly stark example.

While the nonprofit structure isn't perfect, it doesn't keep Wall Street's hands off the money that should be going to help people and projects in need. That's something.

Corporations, which have to maintain profit for their investors and their billionaire owners/execs to take home, are going to exploit anything they can for a few bucks. There was even an attempt by Nike a few years ago to get a band that was known for anti-corporate, anti-nike music to do a commercial for them. They just cold don't care.

That part of the post I whole-heartedly agree with - I didn't even notice the thing about the URL.

Mike Kirby | May 5, 2011 12:25 PM

I'd like you to explain how it was going to air during some of the most expensive ad time on TV without the brief, inoffensive Google plug at the end.

Thank you. This is one of the most relevant facts to consider.

I'd link to this, but I don't want to give you the traffic. I'm just gonna file this under, "no matter what you do, somebody will always find some reason to complain about it."

I don't think blood money is a fair assessment. Google stepped up during Prop 8 and donated $140,000 to No On 8 and publicly came out against the proposition at a time when it could have severely damaged their business. They've done a lot for us. I can't help but wonder why some in our community jump so easily to eviscerating our own.

BTW: I wonder if it ever occurred to Bil that Google gives Chrome away for free? And you know, why not give a plug for the browser at the end of the commercial? They spent the money to get the message out there and if it encouraged just one kid to put that razor blade back on the shelf and not take their life; it was worth it. Or does that kid not matter?

" I can't help but wonder why some in our community jump so easily to eviscerating our own."

Who gets to decide who is "our own"?

The only thing I have in common with Dan Savage is the intermittent use of a bit of the planet's oxygen to stay alive.

His publication is as far removed from the notion of 'journalism' as the Drudge Report, and in terms of personal vacuuous self-promotion and moral emptiness, Savage is one combover away from being Donald Trump.

Bil I tried an experiment. After reading your first sentence I watched the video. Then I read the rest of your post and watched the video a second time. Then after rereading your comments I watched it a third time.

My frame of reference is way different than yours since I have no personal experience being bullied. I have, however, always been horrified at the inhumanity certain mindsets somehow think acceptable. That unfortunately is a long list which includes such things as war, racism, anti GLBT and several hundred more atrocities.

So, I think quite highly of IGB even as I watch companies and celebrities abuse it in many subtle and not so subtle ways. My main problem with the video after all 3 viewings is that it went to rapidly in the beginning and should slow down a bit when displaying the various URL's.

I think you are over sensitized Bil. If General Motors calls you tomorrow and asks you to do a spot for Glee showing you, your mate and various other famous people smiling while driving the latest GM cars and saying it gets better will you refuse? Oh gosh wouldn't that be horrible? Happy people in fancy cars telling the troubled youth it gets better? Surly the very thought turns your stomach.

Wow. I find the critique and many of the comments offensive or at least troubling. I saw this, like one of the comments, as a great example of what someone with an idea can do with the internet and yes Google's products. One person can create a movement.

The attacks on Savage's motivation around IGB are sad. Is his name getting out there more around the press for IGB? Totally. But my god to equate the positive press he is getting from this amazing campaign to BLOOD MONEY is sickening. The man and his partner shared and started a project to help teens not die and to help them know that the pain of the moment won't last forever.

The ad itself takes examples of these videos and yes two google products Chrome and YouTube and yes the guy that began it to show how people can make change in our world far beyond themselves and their local community through powerful tools that google creates. Google's products have enabled countless people to do work, along with educational institutions and non-profits. The fact that they invested a significant amount of advertising to put this piece together and then air it during Glee doesn't make me think of blood money, it makes me think that there is a growing level of awareness (not understanding, not even work to solve the problems) and that is where we need to get to if we hope to move to understanding and problem solving. I find the venom coming from our community saddening and a demonstration that yes there is hate directed towards us with horrible consequences but that the hate also comes from within our own groups, individuals, and organizations.

One reason why a modern individual human can build a global reputation, and then a global empire, is through unabashed self-promotion. Martha Stewart did it. Jon Stewart did it. Steve Jobs did it. Bill Gates did it. Madonna did it. P.Diddy did it. Even in a more passive way, Mother Teresa did it. And now Dan Savage is working on doing it. I despise self-promotion, especially when I set out to promote myself -- but others don't have that aversion, and that's one reason they get rich and I don't. It's the world we live in.

Now, this thing about Savage and Google exploiting suicidal gay teens: Marlo Thomas has taken over her Dad's work (Danny Thomas) raising money for St. Jude's Hospital network and research clinics. Would you accuse the Thomas's of furthering their reputations on the backs of children with cancer?

When an environmentalist writes a book about earth sustainability, do you criticize him because he keeps some or all of the profits? Would you accuse him of making a living on the backs of melting glaciers and polar bear cubs who have lost their mama's?

That's my brain talking ... it tells me that promotion and self-promotion is what the advertising world is all about. But when I watch this piece of crap, I react emotionally the same as you -- I want to puke.

I also want to puke every time I have to wait 20 minutes in a check-out line at Wal-Mart -- they are stealing 20 minutes out of my day just because they don't want to pay a few more needy workers minimum wage so that Wal-Mart can get my money that much faster. I feel like an idiot waiting there.

By the way, Bilerico management, when Bilerico runs one of those posts with lots of beefcake in them just to boost your hit-rate for the week, what's the difference? How much do you pay to the guys in those beefcake photos?

Eric Payne | May 5, 2011 1:51 PM

First off: The browser is free; it also costs nothing to listen to Savage's radio show - a listener doesn't even need to subscribe to Sirius, as the shows are available online.

So the "blood money" accusation is completely over the top.

Whether the ad was tasteful or not is a completely different question, though. As someone who knew the Trevor Project existed, and where to find the IGB messages, it would be easy to be dismissive of the ad... to be so nonchalant about the overall "these are some of the people urging gay youth to hang in there because it gets better" as to completely ignore that message, altogether.

But if there's one kid, anywhere, who only learned of the Trevor Project because of that commercial, then I thank Google for producing it and purchasing the air time - primetime, in a show with perfect demographics.

The Religious Right has stated, more than once, that the IGB videos are nothing more than indoctrination of "our" youth.

You can bet there's going to be a lot of criticism from the right when/if Google's ad starts getting more air time (or other media attention).

By all means, lets help them along... let's also jump all over Google for the ad.

I would also agree that "blood money" is over the top, seems needlessly reactionary.

However, just because these products are free to users doesn't mean that there is no money involved or that everyone involved is purely altruistic (not that I believe they would have to be 100% altruistic in this case)

But there is a lot of money involved. Corporations don't shell out for 5 figure ad slots if they don't think their going to recuperate that money and then some. YouTube plays ads now - video ads in addition to banner ads - Dan's podcast has always had ads, and his increasing popularity gets him high paying speaking gigs. I don't fault either for monetizing their work, but just because you're not paying them for their work doesn't mean they aren't getting paid as a directly result from our patronization.

And while it's fine for anyone to get an ad for themselves or their products, there is a level of blurring the lines between self-promotion and resource promotion which is worth having a deeper discussion about.

For those who don't have their minds made up about Dan Savage, he posted about this on his blog yesterday: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/05/04/google-chrome-it-gets-better-glee-and-me

He even responded to criticism in the comments:
"You know...

Back in September, three days after we launched the It Gets Better Project, we hit the max number of videos that could be posted to a new YouTube channel: 650. We didn't know what to do with or about all the videos that were pouring in. A Google engineer, on her own initiative, went in and backdated the creation of our YouTube channel to 2004, which allowed us to post 5,000 more videos.

So Google folks have been involved and supportive since the start.

And then there's this: the IGB project wouldn't exist without a Google product (YouTube), and would've ground to a halt without an assist from inside Google immediately after its launch. It's not like we partnered with Hot Pockets or Bank of America.

We were, however, wary when we Google's marketing team called and wanted a meeting. It was only after we saw the ad—which really gets it and is really powerful and featured lots of different voices and a diverse group of queer people (trans, African Americans, deaf, Spanish speakers, celebs, non-celebs, elders)—that we said yes.

Google really got it—not just the marketing opportunity, but the project itself. They made some small changes we asked for and weren't able to make a big change we wanted (we didn't want it to end on my name alone, because the project has lots of messengers, not just me, but the alternate ending didn't work).

And the end result is an ad that amplifies the It Gets Better Project message and extends its reach. The ad is really moving and it's spreading the word and reaching people who haven't already heard about the project. Tons of new people went to the site last night—including, and most importantly, lots of the people we're trying to reach: LBGT kids.

This project is not about glamorizing LGBT suicide. It's about reaching LGBT kids who are still fucking alive. Google is helping us do that."

(Sorry it's a long quote, but it's a good one.)
Did Dan Savage sell out to Youtube by using it as his method of spreading his message? There's also an It Gets Better book. Is the publisher making "blood money" too? I bought it at Barnes and Noble. They're making money off of LGBT teens and allies who want hope. I really don't get the criticism.

What you wrote.

PS: Thanks for the quote from Savage about the Google connection.

PPS: I have lots of issues with Savage (untrained person offering sex advice, statements that are insensitive and rude to various groups, political commentary by an untrained person offering sex advice, etc.). But, this is a simple way of getting a very basic, positive message out to part of the population that is often ignored or not even known of by the mainstream world.

Seriously, you dislike Savage's advice because he's not trained....? My mother isn't prfessionally trained, but when she advised me to use condoms and think about who I was sleeping with, I listened. Should I have not listened since she's not trained? IF my best friend gives me advice on new positions, should I just dismiss it because she isnt trained?
You dont have to have training to give advice based on you personal experiences and the expereinces of those around you.

You raise valid points. Personally, my feelings are mixed. There are the reasons you listed, but allow me to play out the other side ...

You say "They, literally, are trying to make dollars off of our children." I'm going to split some linguistic hairs here, but when considered, they become relevant. It's not "our" children, necessarily, and Google's not making money "off" them. More accurately, the advertising goal (one of two goals I discern as being the purpose of this piece) is to make money off of ADULT viewers through its USE of children whose identities we don't know. Depressed bullied teens don't have much reason or capital to invest in Google's computing power. A teem might me swayed to use YouTube because of it, but I'm guessing they do that anyway. I'm thinking teens will look past the "Google" part of this ad, as it doesn't much apply to them, and focus on the It Gets Better subject matter, which is a good thing.

So, Google's not actually preying on the truly weak here. They're preying on us -- grown adults with jobs and money who are sympathetic to the weak. This point made, it is still manipulation. We are manipulated all the time. We're used to it; we can recognize when it's happening (thankfully). Using "sacred" subjects such as this can strike one as being tasteless, however. It's a fine line to walk. Most times when you try to walk the line, half of people think it's OK, and the other half are pissed off. As the subject matter shifts, so does the demographic of the offended party. So, it ends up balancing out. From what I'm reading here, predictably some are pissed and some find it understandable. That is an analysis of solely the ADVERTISING side to this message.

There are other things to consider though. For an ad, there's very very little direct promotion of the actual product. Only two second-long direct shots of the Chrome logo at the beginning and end. I don't think anyone can debate that the vast majority of this ad is devoted directly to the IGBP and its message. And the message is good. Google willingly resigns itself to the background.

Also we should consider that having this message take the form of an advertisement for Google may have been the most effective means of distributing that message. Do we think that the Fox network would be happy to sell a 1:30-long (1:30!) chunk of ad space to an IGBP PSA? IGBP doesn't have that kind of money, first of all. Second, I don't think Fox would go for that. Solution: Trojan horse. Google partners with IGBP to do the piece. Obviously it has to have the shape of an advertisement, but it can be very light on the sales pitch and let IGBP take center stage. Not ideal, but that's the nature of compromise.

After all this internal conflict and intellectual masturbation, ultimately I have to ask myself: How much good can this ad do, and how much bad can this ad do? As for the bad, it can offend people. Make them feel "nothing is sacred." Lead to more tasteless co-opting of images -- the Chevy commercial a few years back featuring MLK comes to mind. And advertising takes further steps into the abyss of attempted manipulation. As for the good, well, it can save lives. Despairing kids might find the true message because of first seeing it there.

Is it a trade-off? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.

It's pretty much where I net out. Google gets to piggyback at bit on the good will of the IGBP and the IGBP get's wide exposure on Google's considerable dime. Where would IGBP or any LGBT non-profit for that matter get the millions of dollars this type of media buy will eventually consume?

Google is a vastly wealthy corporation who could have easily built an ad around the role social media plays in any number of issues—breast cancer for just one example. I'm sure there are plenty of causes that would jump at the chance to do a cooperative campaign with them.

I normally love Bilerico but I was absolutely sickened reading this post. Blood Money??? Really as someone else said I thought I had popped onto WND? I saw the ad and was just blown away by it. It was showing during one of the most popular shows one where many closeted and not so closeted GLBT youth were watching. I remember being that age and I know that would have profoundly affected me. The fact that was an ad for Google would have not made a hill of a difference. Frankly we need to stop tearing down those who are trying to make a difference. Most GLBT youths are not going to be reading a blog like this and they need something like this. Get off your high horse.

Oh how the faithful of St Dan of the Children (nee of the Smegma)come to defend the faith. Who was featured in the ad? Who was the actual target of the ad? It doesn't feel like it was a young trans girl faced with the choice between sex work or going to school and facing humiliation another day, it doesn't look like a closeted valedictorian who is afraid his or her supportive parents and classmate will turn on them, it really doesn't feel like the loaner/loser/geek/freak who is also queer on top of everything else.

Really... look at the ad. Look at the pacing, who it spends time on, who is in the middle, who was the focus? Who do those images/people resonate with? It wasn't an ad for LGBT youth who may be in or near a crisis. It was an ad for GLBT people who like in an accepting urban environment.

It is marketing people - middle-age LGBT with a little disposable income want things for queer youth to be better... but aren't willing/able to do anything about it except fret, and I guess make little movies begging people to "hang in there". The ad alleviates some of the fretting and still lets us enjoy our little gay/lesbian/bi (no trans) positive TV show... and none of us had to sit in front of a webcam and figure out how to post a video to Youtube.

As I posted on Alex's column today:

The thing that I do think you are overlooking is that Google, at least as far as I recall, ran the first national gay positive ad in prime time on a major network. This wasn't an ad where a gay couple was simply included or obliquely mentioned. This ad was about our community, our kids, our seniors, our allies. Part of the message in this commercial is that they are unapologetically proud of their association with the gay community.

Companies highlighting their efforts as "good corporate citizens" (as the ad mavens term it) are common. But Google had plenty of opportunities to highlight other good that they have done in less controversial arenas. They could've highlighted how their software was used to reunite families after the Tsunami in Japan or any number of similar projects. But they chose to help highlight a program that gives gay kids hope.

Yes Google is not perfect and their efforts were not altruistic. But they are a business and altruism is province of non-profits. If I have a choice between a business using their brand and money to work against us, like Target, or work for us, like Google, I'll take Google.

In the end, I look at the collateral benefit as well. 8.8 million viewers watched Glee. In addition to gay kids that found the site How many of them checked out the site afterwards and saw videos by gay families, gay soldiers, gay elders and gay teens. We often say that people understand our quest for rights once they get to know a gay person. Seeing those videos may even help our larger cause.

Also, nothing like having straight celebrities telling me that it will get better. YUP, thanks Dan and co. makes it worthwhile.

Well considering that straight people WAY out number LGBTQRXY and Z people, no matter how many letters are added, it is important.

Youth are dealing w/A LOT more homophobia daily then a positive/supportive message from a large hetero society.

So in your busy schedule and life being complicated no matter celebrity status... did you take the time to make a video?

Just as a point of clarification, this would have been a 6 figure ad spot. The listed cost of a 30 second ad spot for Glee is $272,000. Since this looks like it was a 90 second spot, Google shelled out just under $1 million.

My understanding is that Google also plans to run this ad during American Idol which has a list price of $400,000 for a 30 second spot. That's $1.5 million for this 90 sec ad. I believe Google is also going to run the spot during other shows.

http://www.frankwbaker.com/prime_time_programs_30_sec_ad_costs.htm

With these two spots, Google has spent $2.5 million on spot that does feature their product but also highlights suicide among gay kids and a program designed to give them hope.

I'm reminded of the start of the Ronald McDonald house program in Philadelphia. The PR rep for the Eagles was trying to raise money for the house, he approached the regional McDonald's owners and asked if they would contribute a portion of the March Shamrock shakes sale to help build the house. The owners asked if they donated all of the profits for the shakes to the house could they name it Ronald McDonald house. His reply was "for that kind of dough, you can name Hamburger House for all I care."

You can say McDonald's was making blood money off of the backs of children's cancer patients. However, it was a needed program that desperately needed funding. The branding didn't hurt the cause and enabled something very good to happen.

I would say the same thing about Google's ad.

Patricia Harlow Patricia Harlow | May 5, 2011 3:38 PM

It felt like an ad to me...

Tom Foolery | May 5, 2011 5:19 PM

I'm not sure I grasp the outrage. Where's IGB without YouTube? The call-to-action of IGB was made possible by the sea change in online culture created by YouTube -- putting video production into the hands of the masses, and creating a place to house millions upon millions of amateur videos.

What's wrong with Google promoting that fact, and promoting the project at the same time in a highly visible timeslot?

bigolpoofter | May 5, 2011 6:14 PM

While I was originally rattled by the branding amid the IGB message of the ad, as a longtime volunteer for The Susan G. Komen Foundation and a fan of the (RED) initiative, I accept that the relationship between commercial entities and the "good works" which they support is often complicated. YouTube videos are inspiring and informative, but they don't keep agencies that serve LGBT youth afloat--just ask the former staff of and youth served by the National Youth Advocacy Coalition. Perhaps they and others could have leveraged the Komen style and pressed a "buy white" campaign with an array of manufacturers eager to sell to LGBTQ people and our allies?!

I was so thrilled when I saw this spot during Glee. When it became apparent that it was a Google commercial I was still excited. What fantastic exposure for the IGB project!

Bil, you really, really do not like Dan Savage. That much is clear. But all your blogger "inside baseball" rantings about what a terrible person he is will never, ever change the awesome accomplishment Dan has achieved through this simple idea.

And fortunately, I would wager that none of the gay youth who saw the spot have any idea that Dan is, or you think he is, such a crummy person. They'll just hear that a) it gets better, b) Google is letting you know, and c) Dan Savage is the cool guy who thought of it.

That's fine by me. I'm sorry it bothers you so very much.


Bill I have to ask this question??
How many teen youth do you have in your home daily/weekly/monthly?

I mean really in your home.

I have five teenagers. Each one of them have at LEAST 20friends that trollop/lounge/eat/bathe/wash their clothes/hang out/cry/shelter/sleep in my home.

I know well over a HUNDRED teenagers who are scared.

I mean really scared... because for WHATEVER reason [[nothing necessarily to do w/being gay]] are being tossed out of the one place that SHOULD be safe.

Teen/kids are in this economic time, for whatever reason... disposable.

It's FREAKING epidemic.
Especially boys.

So really??? Really tell me what a message of hope is doing to them when they already have nothing, scared, hungry and feel unloved.

Tell me about the teens you deal with.
Because the commercial played here in my home and a bunch of straight boys [[in a dykes house]] were grateful that they didn't have worst.

The real irony? That Google's YouTube and it's comment feature is probably the biggest playing ground for verbal Fag-Bashing the world has ever seen. I am absolutely sickened by Google's failure to filter millions of comments that are nothing but Gay-bashing Hate Speech.

On the flip side - Ever own a website that has the word 'Gay' in the domain, title, description or used more than casually once or twice on page? Off into the Whore/Slut porn bin your site classification goes cuz it's Gay and you're dirty and your business or organization or content is, well, a second-class citizen on the internet too.

I got no beef with what's a Public Service / Commercial hybrid shown here. It's other practices and failings of Google that are far worse.

I don't think it makes sense to hurl a bunch of invective at Savage while you are watching a terrible, racist, sexist, ableist show like GLEE.

Om Kalthoum | May 5, 2011 8:58 PM

I loved the ad.
I like and use the Chrome browser.
One person CAN make a difference. Sometimes on a small scale, sometimes on a very big scale.
I don't resent Dan's success.

How dare you criticize Dan Savage? We need leaders like him. He's our next Harvey Milk!

I'm sorry Bil, but I have to disagree. I think you're completely overthinking this. You can't dissect every millisecond of commercials. Believe it or not, they are something of an artform - at least the good ones are; and you have to take them in their entirety.

I read most of your criticism before watching the video so I would know what to be on the look-out for. And after seeing it, what you wrote just didn't ring true for me.

As a message, I found it to be moving and positive. And I don't think you should discount the amount of money and resources dedicated to our community that Google spent on this. How many other corporations have supported us in this way? None that I can think of.

Get over it!! You're in America, the home of if there's a profit to be made selling ice to Eskimos there's a capitalist to do it!! I don't like it either, but if the LGBT community gets positive exposure, it's a good thing!

Exactly how are we going to be believed by Trans kids when we say "it gets better", when they see for themselves video like this : http://abcnews.go.com/US/mcdonalds-beating-caught-tape-hate-crime/story?id=13450499

The fact is, it doesn't get better for them. For us. They get stronger.

It gets easier, after transition, so you can deal with stuff like this, because it's still better than not transitioning.. The strain of dealing with TS gets worse the older you get. Relieve that strain, and dealing with assaults and fear becomes a doddle, trivial even, in comparison.

I think most LGB people don't understand this. There's a yawning gulf of misunderstanding.

The kind of people we become tend not to always be reasonable as the result. Just in case you haven't noticed. "Tenacious". "Obstinate". "Not knowing when to give up". The others, the ones that are capable of giving up are dead. That is what that "41% of respondents had attempted suicide" means. A lot don't respond because they complete.

I'm sorry that the moderators here and elsewhere have to deal with the result. I try not to put too much of a strain on their patience, but I know too much about myself to think that I'm not like that too.

You might be right about Dan’s ego etc but you are quite wrong about the ad in almost every way.

Most of the people genuinely needing to see something like this won’t even know who he is – he’s just some old dude frankly. From their perspective they’ll see (I think) one the best known brand names in the world telling them they are okay being who they are, simple as that.

For a young person Google saying that is a huge affirmation, you can’t underestimate this.

I found it to be moving and positive and the takeaway for me was:
1. Google genuinely prefers to be associated with LBGT community
2. Google will pay big time to reach young people out of a combination of self-interest and altruism

Talking about Dan in the context of ad seems to me to be an irrelevance, interesting for the blogosphere but not in the real world.

Your column feels like “I’ve got a fixation” rather than serving some real need to expose wrong doing.

Well, if he actually wants to be a martyr, who am I to stop him from having a meeting in his office with the next Dan White?

Whoa. I think we have thus reached the far borders of good taste. Congratulation, Kat. You argue the "con" for free speech.

Om Kalthoum | May 7, 2011 1:26 PM

Kat tries so hard to spread her hatred of gay men wherever she goes with carefully constructed sentences that might conceivably be construed in a way which won't get her booted off the gay sites. So she can keep coming back to dispense more of her bitter brew.

I hope the moderators won't send this bit of her garbage to the rubbish pile. Leave it be for all to see.

No hatred of gay men - just of self-important, trans-subjugating a$$holes.

"Well, if he actually wants to be a martyr, who am I to stop him from having a meeting in his office with the next Dan White?"

That's disgusting.

VaqueroSF | May 8, 2011 12:43 AM

Bil Browning's criticism of Dan Savage here doesn't surprise me at all. It's the same ol' overworked complaint by Bilerico's stalwart queer social critics: "Gay Inc. is owning the message and leaving the rest of us out! Anything corporate is bad!! Unless there is someone thrice marginalized making the statement, it's evil, corrupt, privileged, hegemonic, and it needs to be destroyed!!" Essentially, it's the nonsense that we've come to expect--but I roll my eyes and summon the energy to respond anyway.

It Gets Better has been one of the most effective viral campaigns in recent memory to have taken hold of the public imagination and inspired people to tell their own stories about having been bullied, offer encouragement to younger generations, and create some possibility of intergenerational communication among the evanescent but oft-cited "LGBT community." While some have knocked Dan Savage for whatever perceived transgressions he has committed against the Holy Union of Self-Appointed Progressive Queers (transphobia, fatphobia, racism, etc.), he has been an extremely useful catalyst in raising the profile of the bullying issue. Just because you didn't think of it first doesn't mean it's a bad idea or it was executed poorly. It just means that Savage did it well and has been strategic in bringing it to the mainstream public's attention--and is getting some credit for having done so. (Again, too bad you didn't think of it first. It could have been you...and it wasn't, and, presumably, that's why you're sore.)

Whether or not the hard-core (and delusional) ideologues at Bilerico choose to acknowledge the fact, corporations will not go away any time soon. One can hate them, resist them, and deride them--or one can find a way to leverage their capability, their reach, and their influence. Sometimes corporations do not act with integrity or with the public's best interests at heart, but when they do (as in the case with Google), one should embrace it with some sense of optimism and a sanguine attitude about the potential for collaboration. Continued stone-throwing, wringing of the hands, and accusations of co-optation only make the accuser sound shrill and look paranoid.

If one truly wishes to see the roots of an authentic LGBT "movement" take hold (a la Lisa Mahfuz-Weiner), one needs to find ways of making connections with others (like Dan Savage), even if he does not neatly fit the profile of the modern-day "queer" activist. We find our allies and potential partners as they are, not always as we'd like to them to be. Often, they have a lot to teach us, if we're humble enough to let them.

This is the fundamental problem with the commentators on Bilerico, like Bil Browning: they think they have all the answers as well as all of the insightful questions, yet people like Dan Savage are the ones actually out in the world DOING SOMETHING that gets traction and makes a difference. Thinking and talking--or doing and acting. Which one are you?

In sum: Go, Dan Savage! Not only does it get better when we transcend the confines of our hostile and judgmental adolescence, but it also gets better when we realize that the answers AND the questions emanate from more than one ideology, one group of "elite" thought leaders, and one point of view.

I was with you 100%, VaqueroSF, until you had to paint all Bilerico commentators with the same broad, hostile brush. You ruined your (presumably constructive) intentions by lashing out. There is a multitude of opinions and attitudes on this site. I'm a contributor here and I criticized Bil in my earlier posted comment above.

If we are ever to "transcend the confines" of our own adolescent judgments, then that sort of maturity requires that we all choose our words more carefully.

VaqueroSF | May 8, 2011 1:17 PM

Mark, thank you for your reminder about civility. While I can't guarantee that I will always be the model of tact and diplomacy in my future comments, I will do my best to avoid generalities and blanket criticism.

I liked the video. I felt proud that a huge company with products that people love is saying that our young people should live and be proud of themselves. Selling yourself is part of life. If you can't sell yourself to others as worthy of protection, you're in a lot of trouble. I'm not saying it should be that way, just that it is. Frankly, if the video were made by Google with no mention of Google, it would just have been another video of people saying "don't do it.," and no one would have noticed it. Don't you think that some others who made "it gets better" videos were motivated partly from egoistic reasons as well as altruistic ones? Politicians who made these videos were shilling for votes as much as they were speaking to young people, and I have no problem with that. Celebrities - same. Same for wannabes. Sincerity isn't cancelled because you have something to sell.

I've read this article with a great deal of interest and ambivalance. If I might broaden the scope for a moment, I think that often social movements for basic equality and human rights are co-opted into market place. For instance, even as far back as the late 60s, early 70s, advertisers took the Civil Rights movement and co-opted it into their product placement. And, since this is a country driven on consumerism, I think once that moment happens and it gains traction among consumers (deliberate choice of word), the horse is out of the gate and some partial gesture toward social equality happens.

But the catch: I think it is just gesture and once things get caught up in the homogenized, sound-bite world of ad campaigns, it tends to take the complexity of real world issues and distill them down to mere issues of pathos. And so there is no doubt this a moving commerical for many viewers, but ultimately perhaps really skims the surface of the problem.

The campaign, itself, of course is much deeper and more thorough, so in this case, perhaps the commerical might be somewhat oversimplistic but it is tied--however implicitly--to Savage's campaign.