Alex Blaze

Comments and responses to Absolut ads

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 10, 2008 3:40 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: gay media, gay press, LGBT, media, PR stunts, public relations

Every now and then I post and the comments are so good I just want to put them up and continue the dialog. My entry yesterday how large corporations, specifically Absolut, try to get free advertising on weblogs by going viral and turning their ads into earned media was one of those.

I'm generally interested in the ways people relate to advertising. It's part of this business - it's the only thing that'll pay for the bandwidth around here. It's hard to get and it's easy to piss them off (and I seem the most prone to that among Bilerico contributors). Their goals are different from mine here - to promote something instead of getting people to think about events and people and ideas. Yet they're part of this language as much as I am.

Here are a few comments on that post, here and elsewhere.

Some people were insulted by the way alcohol advertising has taken over LGBT events and media, like contributing editor Serena Freewomyn:

Umm, while we're on the topic, can we please discuss how fucking insulted I am each year I go to Pride and it's sponsored by Coors and Bacardi? Like we need to keep on perpetuating the stereotype that we're all alcoholics.

Indeed. We hear often enough about the metrics of the free market, that they're doing what's profitable and, hey, can you really blame them? I mean, if we are all really alcoholics, then you can't fault them for that stereotype!

Of course, reality isn't some stable subject language describes, it interacts with language because the latter sets up what's possible, our understanding of the world, the way we interact with it, etc. And advertising is just another medium for language.

But alcohol does have a special relationship, if that's a way to put it, with queer people, as commenter pico pointed out:

The press release was a cheap stunt, though: you should write them back and tell them that advertising costs, yo. To Absolut's credit they were one of the first in their field to advertise actively in LGBT media (since 1981, if you can believe that!), so I'm willing to cut them a bit of slack on this.

The last time I went to Pride there were alcohol ads all over. I'm sure that it wouldn't have happened without them. They were selling alcohol the entire time, and the drag queen emceeing kept on pushing it.

But I just left because it was stupid and degrading. But they're one of the most consistent advertisers in LGBT media, most likely because they don't care much about having a seedy reputation. Does that mean we forgive?

Speaking of stereotypes, another reader, catleigh, says:

That press release is about the most offensive thing I've read in a long time. They seriously think they're making a connection with anyone by focusing an ad on gay men's supposed "fascination with perfect, eight-inch 'member' measurements"? Maybe I'm missing something b/c I'm not a gay man, but this strikes me as being like trying to 'connect' with the Irish by cracking jokes about what a bunch of drunk fools they all are.

While I wondered about how it was meant to create "real connections" with the lesbian half of the "gay and lesbian community," as the press release said it'd do, it also leaves most gay men out. I know that it's an old joke that there are two types of gay men, size queens and liars, but that's contrary to most of my sexual experiences with men. I've found that while size is something people lie about all the time, something they say is important, it's not something men care about in such a dehumanizing way when we actually talk about it.

And why 8 inches anyway? What about 9? Sheesh.

Does advertising on gay media help get gay consumers? Do we LGBT bloggers have sway here? arogue7 weighs in:

As a gay consumer, I pay more attention to who is advertising on Pam's house blend, Ameriblog and the advocate, who is sponsoring Aids runs/bikes, who is donating to Amfar, who is highly rated as an employee by HRC, etc. And I pay attention to boycotts of advertisers supporting hate speech such as Michelle Malkin.

Commenter Nick wrote a mini open letter to the PR reps:

Dear Promoters,

Send your shit to me, and I will use it and then promote it in the comments. This is the future of guerrilla marketing. M'kay?


It just might be.

But do people pay more attention to ads in LGBT media, or is it just another place where people are looking, and buying ad space here is just another market with more eyes watching?

It's easy to forget that in this situation, and like many of the press releases for ads and press releases I get, these people are doing absolutely nothing for us. We're choosing to promote them in a way, unless we simply tear them apart for an ad or lead a boycott. Otherwise, we're getting them more views that they may or may not deserve.

In that context, why would advertising on queer media be special?

That press release was also supposed to create "real connections." It made up the word "gay-washing," which bothered me because it showed how out of touch they were with the community if they thought that was a real subject.

Commenter voila said:

gay-washing sounds like a new way to generate revenue for school clubs, maybe...?

teens at the curb, waving signs that say, "gay wash..."

Absolutely. New expressions are created by writers all the time, but it doesn't happen in press releases. Or it shouldn't. (I'm imagining a world where press releases themselves were works of great prose that students have to read in junior high, but....)

I can think of all sorts of fun things "gay-washing" can mean, and not just what voila said.

The most succinct comment I read, though, was from drbloodaxe:

Wow. That was the most idiotic Absolut ad I've ever seen.


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This post has caused me the think, Alex and all, that historically there has always been a "special" relationship between the gay underground and the alcohol economy.

Back when homosexuality was totally verboten (including illegal) the main, if not only, places where gay men go to meet and hang with each other were certain drinking establishments. Thus, the profit from alcohol indirectly financed the potential for the gay underground to exist in any way accessible to the public. (There was also the cruising areas in the parks --- more dangerous, and usually illegal to this very day.) Alcohol distributors never discriminated against gay men even when we were pariahs, not caring about anything except how much more profit they could make selling how much more product.

(One wonders how gay men socialized during Prohibition --- I've never heard of a gay speakeasy, but I can only assume that a few must have existed; evading one stupid law might tend to encourage the evading of other stupid laws. And I would expect that even today, a "dry" county would have a more difficult time developing a gay social network.)

So there is probably a historical basis for why "gay = alcohol". There has long been a clandestine symbiotic relationship between being gay and trafficking in booze.

Still, those days are over. The alcohol industry might still be all about pushing product and making profit ... but the GLBT community doesn't need them any more as we once did.

And we should take note of it. If Absolut doesn't care to support GLBT blogs, then why should we buy their vodka? And I agree with Mr. Ganshorn, if Martha Stewart won't advertise in our media, then why should we buy her bed linens?

(And for God's sake, don't risk being spotted shopping at Wal-Mart! That drag disguise of yours with the curlers and the Muslim burqua still isn't good enough! Go to Target instead --- at least they feature Isaac Mizrahi --- and Thomas O'Brien, too, in case you aren't into colors so bold that they virtually glow in the dark.)

Right after posting the above, my refill of lithium pills arrived from Canada. I took a few and I'm better now.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 11, 2008 1:16 AM

Mr. Ganshorn? That was my father! I think we too should look at the relationships between cigarette smoking and the Gay community. The way the Marlboro Man was marketed was no accident. In the ancient days of my and A.J.'s "coming of age" Gay bars were a blue haze. Plenty of people there were indulging in behaviors that were self destructive including open hostility to their own sexuality. This led to even more drinking and smoking.

Other than Aids fund raising events in Chicago and Florida my venturing out into Gay venues has been limited in recent decades. I marched in Gay Pride parades in 1972 and 1973 in Chicago when they meant something personally to me. With the advent of immense "bar and booze" sponsoring and the over emphasis on the extremes of our lifestyle rather than "consciousness building."

Alex, if we allow advertisers to tell us who we are we have lost ourselves. Oops! There is the doorbell with my supply of Valium. See you in church A.J!

Hi, Robert ... Yes, you are right, the GLBT community seems to be considered a good marketing channel for pimping every vice that is legal.

I'm surprised the gambling casinos, both Las Vegas and here in Indiana, aren't more gay than they are --- but all those beautiful showgirls dressed in nothing but little diamond triangles puts out the unmistakable message that a gambling casino is intended to be a very heterosexual place.

In fact, one of my friends described Las Vegas to a young gay Latino fresh from Mexico by saying, "Well, Las Vegas is like a big city-sized bathhouse for straight people." They don't call it Sin City for nothing.

P.S. Bob, I do consider myself spiritual but I don't do church all that often. So many church environments are very religious but not very spiritual, and I just don't get much out of them.