Gay ads: business or propaganda?

GAP+Be+One+Be+Bright+advertUntil recently, using gay themes in advertising was considered taboo, and a call for a boycott from one hate group or another usually followed. Remember Bill O’Reilly and the other FOX News goons going up in arms over the gay McDonalds France ad way back in 2010? This was pure liberal propaganda!

But was it? In 2012 alone, using gays and lesbians in advertising has taken off. Gap, Amazon, JC Penny, Doritos, Amtrak and Ray-Ban, among others, all produced ads featuring LGBT themes. We in the community would love to believe it’s simply because people are becoming much more accepting of gays; and partially, it is. As in most cases, though, the issue is being driven by money.

An annual report by Witeck Communications that tracks the spending power of different minority groups shows that the LGBT community is a large and growing market that companies are eager to tap.

Corporations pay big money for these types of studies, and reading over the statistics explains why they would. The 2012 report found that 47 percent of LGBT adults are more likely to purchase a company’s product or service when an advertisement has been tailored specifically to the LGBT community. Also important to note is that 23 percent of gays have switched products or services in the last year because another company was supportive of the LGBT community.

How much money are we talking about here? Witeck’s study projected the LGBT community’s buying power to be $790 billion, and growing.

The conclusion? Gays love to be loved and have a lot of money they’re willing to spend at the companies that show it. There is a flip side, though — the negative effects of conservative consumers staying away with their dollars.

Obviously, these major companies would not have gone ahead with the ads before studying and balancing the effects — which have been positive. JC Penny shrugged off One Million Moms and kept Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson, which helped the company shed its boring image and become more bold and controversial. Sorry, but beige doesn’t sell.

The jump in support for LGBT equality in the past few years tipped the balance in the equation, as it now can be more financially beneficial to support gay rights than to bow to conservative pressure. In fact, this is not the only way in which gay equality makes better business sense.

On Feb 27, The New York Times reported that 278 companies and city governments signed an amicus brief in the Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) case before the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the justices to overturn the law. The brief states, “the capital of modern enterprises is in many ways a human capital. Success depends on the talent, morale and motivation of the workforce for private and public employees alike. DOMA burdens amici and their employees, and strains the employer/employee relationship.”

That sounds like a very free-market concept to me.

Republicans, whose main platform is to get government out of private business and make it easier for them to operate, will have a hard time arguing against this point without looking like bigots.

Meanwhile, gay advertisements have another positive, if unintended, effect: exposing mass audiences to LGBT culture. As the last few years have proven, exposure is fueling the meteoric rise in acceptance. This in turn helps the companies by minimizing the negative effects of producing a gay ad, such as a boycott.

Our media-savvy, consumer-driven culture is fueling progress in ways that other Western nations didn’t experience. Generally speaking, gay rights in Europe are founded on the liberal idea of equality. In America, it’s the conservative concept of good business that has made the rising acceptance of gays possible.

Yes, companies produce gay ads for the money, not because they’re socially progressive engines for change. But if it means my (future) children aren’t going get made fun of for having two daddies, I’ll take it.