Last week, AdWeek featured the "50 Gayest Ads Ever," including a host of gay-themed commercials from around the world.
Why is it still so shocking to see gay people in mainstream ads? At a time when every other demographic is practically shoehorned into marketing for the sake of diversity, gays and lesbians are still all but invisible in the TV advertising landscape. But while you might not have seen many yourself, gay-themed TV ads are definitely out there.
Unfortunately, for the most part, gayness in TV commercials is used as a punchline. The AdWeek feature separates the commercials into several troubling categories: "Surprise! He/She is Gay!," "Lesbians Are Hot," "Don't Tell Mom," "Swings Both Ways," "Actually Straight," and "Activist."
In a minority of advertisements, gayness is portrayed as normal and ordinary, with little "wink-wink-nudge-nudge" reference to the characters' sexuality. My favorite of the ads, a 1995 U.K. spot produced by Ogilvy & Mather for Guinness that never made it to the airwaves because of anti-gay backlash, falls into this category.
Companies would do well to invest in more LGBT-themed advertising. According to a study by Echelon, LGBT people are more likely to consume products from companies they perceive to be LGBT-friendly. More importantly, of course, are companies that actually are LGBT-friendly. The Bilerico Project's look at the 20 most popular brands among LGBT people compared with the companies' ranking on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index shows that LGBT people generally seem to care about the corporation's actual policies on sexual minorities, too.