In 1994, Ikea created a wave of controversy when they became one of the first companies to market to the gay community on mainstream daytime television. Despite the initial backlash; this ad eventually sparked countless other companies jump on the “Gay and Lesbian Advertising Bandwagon”. But what is the motive behind advertising specifically to this community, do the businesses take a genuine interest in the gay community or is it strictly for expanding business? Additionally, once a business decides to advertise using gay content, what is the appropriate way to go about doing so, and how does their strategy differ between gays and lesbians? Only 4 to 10% of the population identifies themselves as gay or lesbian. (Okenfull, 50) So why are businesses so concerned with gaining the support of this demographic? One of the biggest reasons being their buying power. While they don’t make more than heterosexual couples, a large majority are not raising children, so they have more disposable income. Thus, they have even been referred to as the “Dream Market” with a potential buying power of $641 billion annually (Okenfull, 49). Because this is the foremost reason why advertisers go after the gay community, this makes us question whether they have a genuine interest in the gay community.
“We market to gays and lesbians for business reasons because we want to sell out product to consumers. It doesn’t get more complicated than that.“ -Miller beer spokeswoman (Sender, 2)
It is common knowledge that the only point of advertisement is to drive in more business. However, analyzing the overall impact of advertising on society, it seems as if there is more that comes into play than just a business decision. In fact, regardless of the company's motive to produce advertisements that have gay content, the overall impact of infiltrating gay content into mainstream media has actually helped advance and liberate the gay community. Big corporations not only reflect society’s current values, but they are also largely responsible for shaping society's values.
If there are more gay and lesbian imagery in the media, society will adapt the perception that they are everywhere and normalizes gayness. Also, having large corporations back a minority-based cause, will make the majority more accepting and make the people in opposition to the cause seem more ignorant. Essentially, even just the facade of a company publicly declaring their support for gayness makes a powerful statement to society.
Not only is appearing to be in support of gay rights is something that will boost your business, but to have any anti-gay statement or claims can detrimentally hurt your company as well. In 1977, Coors was accused of firing gays, along with several other minority groups. (Journal of Community Research) Not long after much controversy, chairman Pete Coors adopted an Gay-Friendly policy and also extended benefits to same-sex couples. In 2000, Coors hiked up their spending on gay advertising, putting them in the number two spot for most money spent on gay advertisements. (Chura, 1)
After a company becomes seen as anti-gay, it is evident that they must fight desperately to overcome this stigma just to stay in the game. Beer is a prime example of a product that's advertisements have saturated the gay market to the extent of which if you do not participate, then you’re stance on gay rights is questioned.
There is a very positive outcome for the many companies that show their support to the gay community as well as a negative outcome for companies that don’t. Despite this; it still leaves many consumers skeptical of their motives. Many advertisements, in a failed attempt to show acceptance, have become the target of gay critics. The harshest of backlash of these ads are in ones in which they depict obvious and offensive gay stereotypes. It is evident that advertisers must handle these types of ads with care, depicting...