Monthly Archives: June 2010

Gay Ad Spending Rose To Record Levels in 2009

Ad revenue for GLBT publications rose to an all-time high of $349.6 million in 2009, an increase of 13.6% over 2008 totals, according to the Gay Press Report, an annual study published by ad agency Prime Access and media firm Rivendell Media.  These spend levels are in stark contrast to overall consumer magazine ad revenues which fell 15.6% to $10.53 billion, the lowest level since 1998.

The report’s findings weren’t all positive though, as the combined circulation of all GLBT publications decreased by roughly 2.4 million units – an astounding drop of 27.6% from 2008 levels.  Furthermore, gay specific ads increased a modest .5%, while the total number of ads fell 6.8%.

The report was released on the heals of Michael K. Lavers controversial article in the Village Voice on the death of gay media and Kevin Naff’s rebuttal to Lavers’ article in the Washington Blade. It looks like the Gay Press Report’s mixed findings will do little to settle the ongoing decline-in-gay-media debate.


Facebook Gives In, Allows Gay Ads

A few weeks ago I reported on British gay digital ad firm Pink! AccuraCast’s battle with Facebook to place a few ads for the agency’s poll to choose the “best gay ad ever.”  Facebook initially denied the ads, and in a series of email exchanges, reps from the social networking site and AccuraCast argued the “relevancy and appropriateness” of the ads.  Facebook’s explanation for disallowing the ads was dubious at best, and its actions stunk of homophobia (you can read about it here and here).

Well it appears now that Facebook has had a change of heart.  After a lengthy and rather amusing exchange of emails, Pink! AccuraCast finally convinced Facebook that the ads were, in fact, within the website’s ad guidelines.  According to Adrian at AccuraCast, the ads have been running for several days now.  The irony of it all is that the disputed ads have achieved the highest click-through rates of all the ads the agency runs, proving once and for all the ads must be “relevant and appropriate” for their target audience!

Gay Ad Network Sets Record For Unique Visitors

Gay Ad Network, the world’s leading media network of GLBT-oriented websites, announced today that it has become the first gay media property to achieve over 2 million unique users in the U.S. in a single month.  According to comScore Media Metrix, Gay Ad Network reached 2.17 million users in May, which is more than the cumulative reach of popular sites like,,, and MTV’s Logo sites combined.

Gay Ad Network and Lesbian Ad Network together form the category leading gay media network, reaching over 6 million unique users per month worldwide across 290 popular LGBT web sites, blogs and social networks including premier gay brands like Queerty, Real Jock, D List, and Gaydar. Ranked as the largest U.S. gay media property, Gay Ad Network provides online, mobile and video advertising services to global and national brands targeting the gay and lesbian market and is proud to be a gay-owned NGLCC Certified Business Enterprise.

NGLCC Cuts Ties With McDonald’s After Homophobic Comments

A few weeks ago I featured McDonald’s “Come As You Are” commercial currently airing in France.  Naturally, the ad created a stir of controversy, mostly within the close-minded consumer arena of the United States.  Bill O’Reilly, in his infinite wisdom, compared the advertising effort to marketing to Al Qaeda members.  Others have said the ad is just unsettling and unnecessary.

Not surprisingly, McDonald’s has announced that it won’t air the ad in the U.S.  What is surprising (or maybe not) is the bonehead way Chief Operating Officer Don Thompson announced it in an interview with The Chicago Tribune. “[A]t McDonald’s, there are core values we stand for and the world is getting much closer. So we have a lot of conversations. We’re going to make some mistakes at times. (We talk) about things that may have an implication in one part of the world and may be the cultural norm in another part of the world. And those are things that, yes, we’re going to learn from. But, you’re right, that commercial won’t show in the United States.”

The quote drips with homophobia, and GLBT groups across the country are demanding an apology.  Most notably, the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has cut all ties with McDonald’s saying in a letter, “We strongly believe that McDonald’s plan to distance itself from LGBT and other diverse business segments, coupled with the release of the French TV ad, is ill advised and counter to the spirit of good business and sound ethics.”

What started as an effort to demonstrate the company’s inclusiveness and to “recognize the diversity of McDonald’s customers in France” has turned into a PR nightmare.  The only thing McDonald’s has demonstrated is its internal corporate homophobia and its propensity to spinelessly give into anti-gay loudmouths like O’Reilly.  I would boycott McDonald’s, but I already avoid that place like the plague.

Why Are Advertisers Moving Away From Gay-Targeted Campaigns?

Remember back a few years ago when “gay was the new black” and advertisers were clamoring for your gay dollars?  It seemed everyone from Levi’s (screenshot above) to Microsoft was pouring money into GLBT ad development.  So what happened?  Multicultural marketing expert Chiqui Cartagena recently wrote an excellent article for Advertising Age asking that very question.

Bob Witeck, CEO of preeminent GLBT communications firm Witeck Combs, who is quoted in the article, asked for my point of view on the subject, and I thought I would share my response with OGM readers as well.  Below is an excerpt from my email to Bob:

“I don’t know enough about NewFest to comment as to why major advertisers might have ignored it. In general, I’ve always been a little leery of sponsorships. It’s not like a TV or radio buy where you know exactly how many GRPs you’re getting. Sponsorships are risky- it’s difficult to envision what kind of presence you’re going to have, weather events could ruin attendance, and it’s extremely difficult to measure return. Whenever I have had to cut budgets in the past, sponsorships were always the first to go. With that being said, there are some signs that sponsorships at gay-oriented events are growing. NYCPride set a record for sponsorships this year, with major partners like Macy’s, Wells Fargo, and Walgreens signing on.

Your point that advertising budgets are shifting to larger, mainstream agencies is spot on. I see it happening at my company; I’m being urged to move business away from boutique agencies and free-lancers to our large agency of record. I think the result of all this is that you’re going to see fewer quality gay-targeted campaigns. Rather, the trend will be to include gay imagery in mainstream advertising efforts – like one of the many couples in the T-Mobile commercials being gay or the ambiguously gay couple in the Progressive commercial. But by moving accounts to the large agencies without competencies in targeting gays, I’m afraid some of these ads are going to miss the mark and/or alienate/anger people within the GLBT community.

The overarching theme here is that advertisers are missing a huge opportunity to reach out to the gay community – hell it’s why I started my blog in the first place. As Chiqui says, in this post-advertising era it’s all about the long tail, but the gay marketing trend seems to fly in the face of that assertion. In this day and age, it’s easier than ever to segment and target, but it appears we are moving away from focused efforts to a one-size-fits-all message.”

Gay Advertisement #10: Is This Progressive Insurance Commercial Gay?

Progressive Insurance has aired this commercial as part of its robust television ad platform featuring Flo the cashier on a variety of mainstream networks.  I recently saw the commercial while watching television with a friend and commented on how progressive (pun intended) the insurance company is with their ad campaigns by featuring a gay couple.  My straight friend retorted flatly, “They’re not gay.  What about them says they’re gay?  They’re just two friends.”

With this ad, Progressive has used a technique first identified by journalist Michael Wilke in Ad Age in 1997 called “gay vague.”  The ad appeals to gay consumers by featuring a couple who, to homosexuals like myself, appear to be gay.  However, the reference is vague enough that it doesn’t turn off the company’s heterosexual customers.

As it turns out, Progressive didn’t intend for the commercial to be gay at all.  In case you missed my article in Echelon magazine this week (pages 24 & 25), I reviewed Progressive’s new Faces of Pride campaign.  That article was written based on Echelon editor-in-chief Michael Lamb’s notes from an interview with Progressive Advertising Director Miriam Deitcher.  When asked about the commercial, Deitcher replied, “We got feedback from people who think the characters are gay.  We understand that. We were just trying to set up two friends; one has to sell a watch because he was low on money. We were comfortable with the way it turned out.”

St. Pete Pride Cancels Contract After Clear Channel Rejects Billboards

Clear Channel Outdoor, the world’s largest outdoor advertiser, has rejected two of the four billboards the St. Petersburg, Florida Pride organization leased to promote that community’s upcoming pride celebration.  In response, St. Pete Pride has cancelled its contract with Clear Channel, stating “the images that were not selected do not contain anything that is sexual, immoral, illegal or otherwise offensive in nature.”

The two rejected billboards can be seen above, and the two that were accepted can be seen below.  In years past, Clear Channel has edited the creative submitted by St. Pete Pride, but this year the organization decided to stand its ground.  In an email to Clear Channel from St. Pete Pride Executive Director Chris Rudisill wrote, “I’m almost certain that you have had billboards in the market which display men and women in both friendly and romantic ways.  I can’t seem to understand where these images would be any different, except for the fact that they portray two men and two women, respectively.  St. Pete Pride is determined to focus its message on the family aspect of the GLBT community.  Therefore, (we) would not allow Clear Channel to dictate what message we could convey.”