Marketers slow to deploy ads featuring gay couples
Even as gay marriage becomes legal in more places, corporate America has been slower to feature gay couples in advertising plans.
While companies in Minnesota and elsewhere cater to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers, efforts to court their business are not as obvious to the general public. Minnesota Public Radio News reported Thursday that those marketing campaigns tend to be more over social media than a mass market medium such as television.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Minnesota and 11 other states.
Some businesses are starting to change their approach. U Care, a nonprofit Minnesota health plan, recently started putting ads on city buses featuring a lesbian couple holding hands and a message that reads, “Health care that starts with: Kate and Louisa.”
“Our brand’s tagline is `Health care that starts with you.’ It’s not `Health care that starts with some of you,'” said Dan Ness, the company’s marketing director.
UCare, a nonprofit, community-based health plan, serves people in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Its transit ad campaign, which started running in July, depicts a wide variety of people, Ness said. A television ad UCare has run since 2011 also features a lesbian couple.
Other Minnesota companies court gay customers in smaller ways. Target depicts gay couples in its wedding registry marketing. Cereal maker General Mills has a blog site promoting its Lucky Charms cereal brand abounds with gay-friendly rainbows and a photo gallery that includes photos of same sex couples.
Communications strategist Bob Witeck said companies are proceeding cautiously because of risks of offending those who don’t approve of gay relationships. When JC Penney and Urban Outfitters featured gay couples in catalogs, they faced boycotts from the group “One Million Moms.”
And Witeck said if marketers really want to speak to gay couples, they can get a better payoff by spending advertising dollars on in places where gay and lesbian people are the main audience, such as the “gay voices” section of the Huffington Post.
“When same-sex couples are incorporated into a strategy, they’re almost invariably focused in channels where there’s a higher proportion of gay people seeing them,” he said.