Expedia’s commercial which was introduced online in October and began running on television this month, about a father’s trip to attend his daughter’s wedding to another woman, was initially aimed at gay and lesbian viewers. Now the commercial is also running on networks with a general audience like CNN, History, MSNBC, and the National Geographic Channel. “As we were making our website more personal, we wanted to get back to the idea that travel is really personal, and equality is a core part of who we are,” said Sarah Gavin, director of public relations and social media at Expedia in Seattle.
The Expedia decision is indicative of a significant change in how marketers are disseminating ads with so-called LGBT themes, for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The last two or three decades have seen those ads particularly aimed at LGBT consumers, and placed in media viewed and read by those consumers. However, LGBT ads have gotten broader exposure recently. The main goal is to reach families, friends and straight allies of LGBT consumers. “I have friends who are gay who said, ‘I sent this to my mother,’ ‘I sent this to my father,’” Ms. Gavin said of the Expedia commercial. “We wanted to start a conversation.”
Another goal is to signal support for LGBT consumers as they seek civil rights in areas like immigration and marriage. Although “niche media remain an important part of the mix,” said Billy Kolber, publisher and creative director of Man About World, a gay travel magazine for the iPad, “it’s more impactful when you see an ad in mainstream media because it says these companies are willing to offer public support.”
In addition to Expedia, there is a list of marketers who have sampled LGBT ads. The list include Amazon, American Airlines, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Bloomingdale’s, Crate & Barrel, Gap, General Mills, Google, Hyatt, JetBlue Airways, Kraft Foods, Johnson & Johnson, MasterCard, Microsoft, J. C. Penney and Redhook Ale Brewery.
“As society becomes more diverse, there’s more inclusive messaging, which reflects what society actually looks like,” said Michael Wilke, executive director of the AdRespect Advertising Educational Program, which works with marketers on LGBT representation in campaigns. “It’s not about being inclusive to stand out,” he added. “It’s about being inclusive to blend in.” And “it’s particularly a no-brainer when you look at younger consumers,” Mr. Wilke said, who, according to polls, are far more accepting of diversity than their elders to the point where they expect to see ads that celebrate acceptance.
A play on words centered on “acceptance” is the focus of a campaign under way from MasterCard Worldwide, which offers a hashtag, #AcceptanceMatters. It includes material on Facebook along with Twitter. “We think it will resonate with a lot of different people,” said JR Badian, vice president and senior business leader for U.S. digital marketing and social media at MasterCard Worldwide in Purchase, N.Y. “This gives us the opportunity to be targeted as well as bring the message to a larger audience.”
An LGBT campaign for Lucky Charms cereal, sold by General Mills, is composed of social media and event marketing. The Lucky Charms campaign carries the theme and hashtag “Lucky to be.” “We feel Lucky Charms is a brand of ‘magical possibilities’ for everyone and anyone,” said Greg Pearson, marketing manager for Lucky Charms at General Mills in Golden Valley, Minnesota, partly because each box contains three kinds of pieces shaped like rainbows, “one of the universal symbols of acceptance.” [NYT]