UPDATE: All three of the commercials commented on below are no longer available. Apparently the companies took them down.
The advertisement above from Nikon, launched on 14 January 2015, is the second video ad in history to feature an openly gay couple. In March of 2013, Amazon released the first advertisement to feature an openly gay couple, shown below.
The Amazon ad seems to be a depiction of people, whereas the Nikon ad is a real life couple. So, in that regard, the Nikon ad is a first.
The LGBT community has largely gained equality and acceptance in North America, although pockets of bigotry and some hurdles remain. Despite the high profile representation of LGBT people in the media and entertainment industry, they are conspicuously absent from mainstream advertising.
The 2014 Super Bowl commercial from Coca Cola (below) made a feigned attempt at offering a nod to the LGBT community by showing two men reach and grasp hands momentarily at a roller skating rink — the one guy was stabilizing the other (at about 44 seconds into the ad). A few seconds later they are sitting next to each other.
These visuals are supposed to convey that the men are gay lovers. Of course, they could also just be beer buddies, or brothers, or some have some other kind of friendship/family connection. At 33 seconds and 51 seconds there are two Jewish men with Yarmulkes on. They are standing close together. Perhaps we’re supposed to conclude they are gay also. As you can see, the Coca Cola ad really doesn’t count when compared to the Amazon ad and the latest ad from Nikon above.
Advertisers are typically timid about reaching out to a group that’s not a majority part of their primary consumer demographic. So, most ads still feature the typical middle-class white husband and wife with two kids and a dog. Advertisers are looking to connect with a majority of the marketplace, and weary of doing anything that might offend their potential customers who may be anti-LGBT. They want the viewer to see the ad and say, “Hey, that’s just like me” or “I can relate to those people.”
Companies consider their brand, and what they want it to convey. In doing so, they want to consider who might be offended by an ad.
There are many companies that have affirmed LGBT rights in other ways, yet still censor any blatant conveyance of a gay couple in ads for example.
A history of bad publicity and boycotts from anti-gay ultra right-wing conservative evangelical groups has many advertisers not wanting to take a chance with any LGBT people or message in their ads.
When Ellen DeGeneres was hired by Covergirl (read more) and JC Penney (read more), there was a backlash from anti-gay activists. Against this backdrop, seemingly irreverent to fears of reprisal, Chevrolet hired Isaac Mizrahi to flamboyantly promote their 2013 Malibu.
There’s already been some negative backlash on the Nikon Facebook page post of the “Kordale and Kaleb” video. Nikon seems to have pulled the video from the Nikon YouTube page (or perhaps they never released it there). It’s only on their Facebook post. Others have already copied the video and uploaded it under their own YouTube accounts (that’s how we can share the video on this page).
In some respects, advertising is the last frontier for any group. The LGBT community isn’t the only group that’s marginalized. It’s still uncommon to see couples of mixed race/ethnicity in advertising. When you do, it’s considered innovative and these ads come from progressive companies.
With any of the above mentioned advertising campaigns, and others like them, there’s always the possibility that the company will pull the ad if they think it will negatively impact sales. Just like politicians whose opinions and policies represent those reflected in public polls and focus groups, advertisers are a fickle bunch. Some companies will stand on principle and not pull ads even if they think their sales may be adversely impacted, yet that’s not common.
We see this popularism with other institutions as well. Duke University recently stated they would be announcing the Muslim call to prayer on Fridays from their chapel. Unfortunately their decision coincided with a slight dip in public opinion about Islam, so they abruptly decided not to continue with the plan.
Comments? Corrections? If you know of any other ads that were left out of this article, please contact us and we’ll include them.