How Gay Ads Have Changed

  1. Jill Andrews
  2. July 19, 2016 12:02 pm

How Gay Ads Have Changed

Nearly 47 years following the Stonewall Riots in New York City, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of marriage equality.  Gay marriage became legal in the United States on June 25, 2015 – setting forth a whirlwind of support for the LGBT community.  The passing of the ruling meant that two persons of the same sex were able to enjoy the same rights with regard to marriage as their heterosexual counterparts.  Given this fundamental right, many straight and LGBT individuals supported and celebrated the ruling.  

While the Supreme Court ruling is still rather new with people still trying to navigate these unknown waters, the concept of gay advertising isn’t anything new.  Prior to the law’s passing, “gay” advertisements seemed to make a mockery of the LGBT lifestyle and everything it encompassed.

[Orbitz 2012 ad]

Gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals have been portrayed in commercials as overly made up women who spoke and acted a certain way.  

[Starbucks 2014 ad]

While this may have been okay for 2014, in 2016, things are vastly different for the LGBT community as a whole.  No longer do individuals in the LGBT community need to be presented as the typical transsexual personas that we have come to know in media advertising.  

With the passing of Marriage Equality all over the country, we can now see gay, lesbian, and transgender people for what they are: people.  These individuals don’t need fancy overdone makeup or ads that speak a clear message showing that a man is the “army wife” waiting for his husband to come home from the military.

[Gun oil 2014 ad]

Print ads were no different, either.  These ads made use of puns (“grab your poles!”) dedicated to the LGBT community.  While they may seem clever for their time, it really doesn’t do the LGBT community justice in their depictions.  

[Print ads]

Gay Orbitz made ads that jeered members of the gay community, while Absolut Vodka teased the idea that male genitalia should be of a certain size in order to be accepted.  In effect, the first ad teases for LGBT members to come out of the closet.  These ads did what they had set out to do for the time and that was to grab the readers’ attention.  

For the ads that weren’t depicting LGBT individuals in an overly comedic fashion, sex was often overused as a selling point.

[Jawbone ad]

Before the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality was legal, 37 states were already allowing same sex couples to be married.  Still, many advertising firms all over the country created ads that were similar to the ones released by Absolut and Orbitz.  These marketing materials were often so delirious in their depiction of LGBT people or they were just too sexy to be seen on television.

Now that marriage equality has become a serious item in our world, advertisers are finally stepping up with wholesome ads.  “Gay” ads have changed dramatically since the Supreme Court’s ruling, leaving the hard fought battle with some advertising rewards to those within the LGBT community.  Major companies who had previously shown no support for the movement were lining up to support LGBT individuals with their advertising efforts.  Companies like Tiffany & Co. and Tylenol stepped up to show supportive ads.

We would love to award these companies with a participation trophy, but they seemed fake in their attempt to woo their LGBT audience.  When the battle was nearly won, these companies seemed to come out of the woodwork in order to craft ads that they deemed fitting for support of the LGBT cause.  They hastily created ad content that looked thrown together, seemingly so they wouldn’t be left out of the fold.

A lot of advertising firms didn’t do things right when it came to the creation of ads that depicted LGBT people as wholesome, down to earth people.  Instead, they threw out ads to the general public which depicted the LGBT community as the companies thought them to be.  As a result, we can call them out for their less than stellar effort in hopes that it will bring about change in the future of the advertising world.

For marketers and thinkers today, don’t be afraid to create advertising content that shows the LGBT community as friendly, welcoming people.  Getting away from stereotypes breeds people who think and feel the same.  Many bandwagon jumping companies did not fully appreciate the power of the LGBT community, but coming up with new ideas is just one step toward ads that speak to the target audience without making a mockery of the lifestyle as a whole.