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Advertising can be so gay

It really is a fine time to be gay. The world's getting its rainbow on more than ever despite some insistent folks who aren't that happy about it.
But, if you're part of the Westboro Baptist Church and genuinely believe the gays to be the evil you claim, your problems are a little bigger than myself and my mincing ilk.

From Hurricane Sandy to Oscar Pistorius' murder story, religious fanatics everywhere are blaming homosexuality for all sorts of malarkey. American Republican Michele Bachmann is having her own flap because of the abolishment of the Defence of Marriage Act; the land of the free is now the home of the gays, and what with what's happening in Russia and the rest of Africa, we're in the limelight now more than ever.

Big business

Commercially, this is big business and the ever-growing gay market is estimated to be worth $835 billion. Homosexuality in Advertising and Marketing is alive and well. This doesn't mean that everyone in the agency model is gay (and now that I know this, I have to seriously question my career path), but it means that everyone is okay with it, because to legitimise this audience offers bonus opportunities for brands through an endorsement or a communication storyline.

The position these brands take (if at all) is a bold one. There's business to be won and lost either way. The Chick-fil-A case in the States is a remarkable one that exploded because of the company's chairman making clear his vehement opposition to the debate around marriage-equality. The backlash was enormous and business couldn't have been good. Oh well... You win some. You lose some.

What's more important to me are the brands willing to stand for a kinder message - and how big of a surprise some of them are: the Royal Dutch Football Association for example. Who would have thought?

There's always the risk that someone without the chops or the know-how has a bash at it though and goes a little far. This spot for Toronto's Gay Rugby Team has potential and then loses steam because while talking about challenging stereotypes, falls straight into one.

Still, it's great to see that the subject matter is being covered with well-produced content. But for the relevance to resonate, I believe it's more about the articulate subtlety in the story and how powerful this is for an audience who - in my lifetime still - will always and in some way be looking for acceptance.

I'm not here to force the issue. I wouldn't say we need the gay version of every straight commercial out there. Noeleen going to that fancy schmancy institute to do that research for Ariel has saved us so much time, don't put us down for a gay version of that. And anyway, it would just be painful and very, very boring. But I am for more of the good ones. It would corroborate the work being done by shows like Glee, The New Normal and Modern Family. Shows that teach kids about how different we all are - and how cool that actually is.

Advertising plays a very powerful part in the choices we make. In a country (and world) with so many closeted issues when it comes to tolerance, do you think we could help make them better?
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About Dylan Balkind

Even the person who can sell ice to Eskimos needs have a way of letting the world know. Words. They're wonderful warriors with the potential for worry. Use a writer who takes his passion seriously. Here's more about me and mine: | Twitter @DylanBalkind
Ralph Higgo
Interesting rationale.I agree more agencies should look at getting behind Gay advertising.Especially Gay African advertising.The only Gay advert doing the rounds in South Africa that I know of is that FNB radio ad and that sucks balls.
Posted on 8 Jul 2013 08:52
Pippa Wepener
Not everyone has to accept that being gay, catholic, white or whatever is the correct way to be. However whenever it comes to gay rights, its the straight people who are usually in the wrong because they are 'short sighted', 'narrow minded' or whatever. People are entitled to their opinion and if they are not entitled to theirs, then you are not entitled to criticise them!
Posted on 8 Jul 2013 14:27
Donovan Steyl
Hallelujah...have been banging my head against this wall for three years now...and there are South African brands who embrace this lucrative niche demographic who I describe as the "idea consumer". Visit for further details, and if you would like a good the 2012 LBM Gay Consumer Survey.
Posted on 8 Jul 2013 14:56
Siphiwe Nhlapo
People you can’t be serious, I am definitely sure that you must be Joking but I will understand if you doing this to save your Job, reference, fame my apologies if that won’t find you right maybe the Word “recognition will fit”Many experts believe that your thoughts influence how you feel and how you behave. For example, if your thoughts are focused on worry or doubt, you may begin to feel a sense of helplessness, anxiousness or a lack of confidence. Your behaviors then mirror your feelings. You avoid trying new things or you don’t participate in the things you once enjoyed. This does not mean that your thoughts are solely behind your troubling symptoms. There are biological, environmental and other causes contributing to your illness.The basis of this technique is that you consciously issue the command, “Stop!” when you experience repeated negative, unnecessary or distorted thoughts. You then replace the negative thought with something more positive and realistic. This is God’s nature, I do not recall our creator promising to Bless us with gays, our Authorities are Confusing human Kind around the universe just to maintain the division Strategy and this will lead our generation to come, and this will be our fault because we must not forget that we are all here to Fulfill our Creators Will not ours. Someday people will have to answer this Confusion. God has forgiven us all for defeating the universal purpose, let’s not only do what is good for people to see because the result might not be righteous at the EndThere is no Eastern thought, or Western thought; there is only the common capacity to think, whether one is utterly poor or most sophisticated, living in an affluent society. Whether a surgeon, a carpenter, a labourer in the field, or a great poet, thought is the common factor of all of us. be Awaken, its about timeRegards, NEW WORLD
Posted on 8 Jul 2013 15:15
James Gradidge
Yes Dylan,It certainly is an interesting time for gayness the world over.As a veteran of the industry, I must however, sound a word of caution about taking the client's image too far into the Pink Zone.To whit, recent support for LGBT rights in the Boy Scouts of America, by stalwart brands such as Caterpillar in the U.S.A., have drawn potentially disruptive responses on social media channels, which threaten many years of marketing activity.Just imagine a Pink Diesel Caterpillar, and you will get the picture. Such connections also flow through to the clothing brand and beg the question whether some trends are being pushed too far.While the Gay Community certainly do enjoy a larger-than-life presence in many circles and we are aware of their enormous power to spend, the research indicates that in fact, this is still relatively minor segment of the market, by the numbers and not universally influential. How many gay folks will be purchasing a Caterpillar Diesel in the near future, do you think?Unless you are an overtly gay organization, it would be unwise to focus on this aspect, as it may potentially skew the established foundation of your communications, and disrupt your own brand-building efforts.While the gay presence in the industry is relatively high compared to others , there are many sectors which are somehow, less appealing to them.As an industry with the power to alter perceptions on our client's behalf, we should exercise the due care and responsibility to maintain a sensitive balance.
Posted on 8 Jul 2013 15:53
Dylan Balkind
Hi JamesI hear you! And the brand's relevance for the target market would (should) drive the creative – sure. Hence why I say I don't think we need a duplicate gay version of every ad out there. I think you've hit the nail on the head with your closing statement – and may it go from your lips to the Creative Gods' ears. The thing is, that balance is out of whack; racially, demographically and even in terms of sexual preference. South Africa produces many poignant, locally and internationally celebrated commercials. And the rest of what fills our airwaves? Sure... there has to be a certain amount of retail porn to keep the financial wolves at bay, but the ratio of brilliant to not brilliant (insert own expletive here) TVCs on air is staggering. It just opens the forum for healthy debate, and yes – agreed! I wouldn't be racing in to buy a Pink Caterpillar Diesel. But I would never be in the market for any colour Caterpillar Diesel so to give the debate a fighting chance, we would have to compare notes on the things we have in common that we would be in the market for, how they are being communicated to us, and how we feel about that. It's a great topic – either way! Thanks again. D
Posted on 8 Jul 2013 16:57
Tiffany Markman
A fantastic piece of writing and an interesting viewpoint. Let's hear it for pink advertising.
Posted on 8 Jul 2013 19:40
James Gradidge
Pink advertising for pink products, but pink is such a tiny segment of the spectrum in any rainbow, unless those are rose-tinted spectacles you're peering through?
Posted on 8 Jul 2013 22:38
James Gradidge
The point here,Dylan, is why a brand like Caterppillar should endanger their public profile by becoming involved in such a contentious issue. Are they being advised correctly? This is our responsibility, as the repercussions can be immense.
Posted on 8 Jul 2013 22:46
Dylan Balkind
No James, that is not the point. Why so fixated on a brand that has NOTHING to do with your reality nor mine? Cat* should press on sans your or my marketing guidance. Trenery, Diesel, Levis, Guess or Tom Ford clothing? Yebo Gogo! And therein my creative suggestion that these brands start speaking (more often) to boys like me? Caterpillar need not endanger anything because that is not the example of what / who / i am referring to. Lunch? D
Posted on 9 Jul 2013 05:12
Donovan Steyl
Hi James.Please see -The LGBT community makes up roughly 4.9 million South Africans...a considerable market for SA wouldn't you say?
Posted on 9 Jul 2013 06:04
Roxi Newham-Blake
loving the open mindedness but it seems that society is more comfortable with gay men being open than women? what about the lesbos peeps...
Posted on 9 Jul 2013 09:28
James Gradidge
CAT is a very interesting case study Dylan, in that a fashion brand is directly connected. Boys like you wear CATs all the time, and the brand is represented by many of the retail outlets in the Lunchbox survey.Perhaps you've worn a pair of CAT boots, jeans or jacket, or perhaps not, but I am not viewing this from a subjective point of view as in "..guys like me...", but rather from the perspective of an objective advisor to clients with real issues and concerns. No doubt CAT will be selling more in the 10% represented by the LGBT sub sector, but how will their position impact on the remaining 90% of the market. Time, and Tattler, will tell.Surprising as it may seem, I have been professionally deployed on brands very similar to CAT, even though I would not be considered as a member of the target market, so this issue is highly relevant to my given task as custodian of the client's brand image. Can advertising afford to be too gay? In my opinion, we should remain clinically objective, without allowing our own emotional viewpoint to cloud the issue, either way. My own retail porn preferences, or lack of such, do not enter the equation.I have used this brand as an example, only for it's recent topical exposure, as it holds hard lessons for many brands and advocates alike. The issues are vastly more complex than simple numerical analysis of gender preference and spending habits.One issue which popped out in the Lunchbox survey was this little gem: " With unemployment levels around 45% in South Africa, it's reassuring to know that 90% of respondents are employed. (3% were unemployed & 5% were students) of which 23% are self-employed." Do you see the anomaly? Is this reassuring, or just a clear sign of unhealthy partisanship.The wisest suggestion in this document is the idea of a Gay TV channel. Do invest.As for lunch; thanks, but I will have to decline, as lunchtime is fully booked for the foreseeable future. I will be mentoring some Boy Scouts.
Posted on 9 Jul 2013 11:43
James Gradidge
Hi Donovan,Thanks for the link, very interesting reading.Certainly Gay members are well represented. There are, however, several obvious anomalies which indicate that this segment is skewed in various directions. These serve to isolate this sub segment and reinforces their variance from the average.Would it therefore be advisable for every marketer to adjust their overall approach, or wiser to address this as a lucrative niche. I am convinced of the latter.Certainly, this report offers some insight to those who have the product dynamics and inclination, and I can foresee some serious entrepreneurial effort in this regard. Such as a dedicated channel, for a start.As I have said in the past, data can only go so far in guiding us, the rest is expertise, experience, and genius.Just in terms of aesthetics, could we please have a less aggressive shade of pink?
Posted on 9 Jul 2013 12:13
Pippa Wepener
and some people are not comfortable with either........and should not be forced into accepting something that they do not believe is a 'natural' occurance. I am very uncomfortable watching two men OR women kissing on the television for example.
Posted on 9 Jul 2013 12:36
Pippa Wepener
First of all you are extremely rude as I am certainly not a 'missy' and secondly, I would not wish to have a gay child which is entirely my perogative!
Posted on 24 Jul 2013 13:19
James Gradidge
UPDATE:Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) promised a "lockdown" on costs after reporting a surprisingly steep 44% drop in third-quarter earnings. The difference between Digital Newbies and Traditional Mainstream Media lies in the fundamentals of understanding.Perhaps it's time to rethink the rethink.Advertising can be so dangerous!
Posted on 6 Nov 2013 05:05
James Gradidge
UPDATE: Advertising can be so gayBY: DYLAN BALKIND | 8 JUL 2013 08:00Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) promised a "lockdown" on costs after reporting a surprisingly steep 44% drop in third-quarter earnings.The difference between Digital Newbies and Traditional Mainstream Media lies in the fundamentals of understanding.Perhaps it's time to rethink the rethink.Advertising can be so dangerous!
Posted on 6 Nov 2013 05:21