Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Gay Adverts - The Strange Cold War

For the past year or so the advertising industry (in the US especially) has been wading into the fight for gay rights vs the sanctity of marriage or something. Adverts and brands are now banners beneath which armies gather.

Before I talk about homosexual issues I feel like I should qualify my feelings on the subject. Sexuality is like the sea: mysterious, ever-changing, nearly impossible to properly measure, quite polluted and full of sharks.

fonzie happy days jump shark montage photo
But if you’re careful you can jump those sharks

If people want to connect themselves to one another in the eyes of some mythical overlord, or in the eyes of the law (also a kind of mythical overlord) then I’m fine with it as long as they put on a good buffet and a free bar. Regardless of whether they’re bride/bride, groom/groom or groom/bride (which isn’t always a reflection of gender anyway) my only question is whether I’m invited. The answer is usually no; everyone is afraid of what I might do when exposed to limitless alcohol. Their lack of faith disturbs me.

There’s no practical reason to deny homosexual couples the same legal rights that heterosexual couples ‘enjoy’, there’s only ideological hyperbole*.

*In a decent thesaurus those two words are synonyms for ‘insane ranting’

With that seriousness out of the way, let’s get to business! Gay business! Hit the jump for some gay business!


They employed noted US personality and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres as a corporate mascot. She is also a lesbian. The anti-gays were outraged but rather than throwing her to the wolves, JCPenney cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war. They released a Mother’s Day advert featuring two mothers:

JCPenney two mums mother days lesbian advert poster
I approve of the politics but hate the font
And then on Father’s Day they continued their campaign with a Father’s Day image:
JCPenney two dads fathers gay day
 Some sort of… caption… Sorry, I was too busy going ‘aww’

VERDICT: Pro-gay


core issues trust bus advert
I see what they did there

These adverts were supposed to appear on the side of London buses, but I’m told that Mayor Boris Johnson himself (or his office) stopped them from doing so. There was a brief period where the Core Issues Trust considered suing for that but – in my dreams at least – they couldn’t find a jury that was truly impartial. Would they even use a jury in that sort of case? Probably not, but it’s my dreams.

The graphics are a reference to the get over it campaign. That was a good campaign. But the idea here is that you can brainwash a person’s preference, dictating whether they desire a moist, quivering vagina or a turgid, pulsing penis. Presumably you can also dictate whether people prefer circumcised penis or not and who knows what other values. The implication of this science is that you can also do the same in reverse. Either way, it seems accepting your nature and exploring it in a comfortable, safe setting is dangerous while suppression, denial and trusting a stranger to reprogram your brain is entirely legitimate.

VERDICT: Anti-gay. Duh


amazon logo
 Can you spot the penis?

On July 27th 2012, the CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos and his wife announced that they’d donated a huge amount of money to making sure gay marriages remain legal in Washington, following the February legalisation. It was the biggest amount of money ever donated in support of same-sex marriage. Ever. Like, in the whole history of all currency.

They briefly got in anti-gay hot water for a bit in 2009 – hundreds of gay etc books lost their sales rankings including Brokeback Mountain (Apparently it’s also a novel! Who knew?) due to a crackdown on ‘adult literature’. This was explained as a “ham fisted cataloguing error”. It was quickly fixed. Okay, that’s a pretty weird glitch, but still – if compensation to the LGBT (etc) community is possible then donating the most money ever in support of same sex marriage will surely do it.

VERDICT: Pro-gay


chevy gay hybrid advert purple
Also I’m made of purple

I’m not sure where to start with this; that’s how loaded it is. The Chevy manufacturing company is based in Detroit, Michigan, USA. This advert was apparently released before the Detroit Pride celebration.

I’ve written before about ecologically friendly cars and how far the electric motor will get you.

This was incredibly sensible marketing: promoting eco-friendly motoring to a section of the population that prefers to be eco-friendly. While that might sound like generalisation it’s also backed up by hardcore statistics. It was described by critics and commentators as ‘smart’ to promote a hybrid vehicle to a sympathetic audience. To paraphrase one advertising report, Chevrolet has managed to connect a marginal ‘outsider’ market with another similar ‘outsider’ product.

Whether in or out, who can afford a damn Chevy?

VERDICT: Pro-gay


Most of my searches for anti-gay adverts result in politicians. It’s almost as if religious politicians are exploiting the conservative right, somehow under the false assumption that it’ll get them majority support… but how out of touch would you have to be to think that?

This is one of the infamous ones. If you haven’t seen it before and you’re enraged then cool your jets, hot-shot. On that individual video I linked to there are over 470,000 views. Sure there are one thousand likes but also over sixteen thousand DISlikes. I can live with a 16:1 ratio. Just one more problem solved by the internet!

VERDICT: Anti-gay


Target is based in Minnesota. Much like Amazon they got in some anti-gay trouble and have been compensating since. I mean, Amazon’s embarrassment was brief and accidental while Target’s was purposeful and sustained: sponsoring a candidate for governor of Minnesota that was passionately against gay rights.

Target was also heavily criticised for deciding to cancel the release of an album by Frank Ocean. This was shortly after Frank Ocean had pretty much come out as gay. Everyone strongly suspected the two events were connected. Target has heavily insisted that it was because they didn’t want to compete with the digital sales – despite that not making sense and also happily doing so with other recording artists.

In June they launched a line of gay pride t-shirts to raise funds for an LGBT advocacy group:

love is love target gay shirt

Seriously? That’s a pretty general message. I don’t think anyone can argue that love isn’t love. Sure there’s the rainbow, but if you take this image out of context it’s pretty unremarkable. I expected something with more impact considering the fuss that was made…

pride gay shirt target

OH! Wow, yeah, that’s loud and proud eh? And then recently they released this promotional image:

target gay wedding advert poster
Wait… I think my gaydar is trying to tell me something…

Yet there’s still doubt in some circles. But Target is also keen to remind everyone that they’ve been major sponsors of the Minneapolis Pride Parade for a long time, and the organisers feel that the t-shirts aren’t just a publicity stunt.

VERDICT: Probably Pretty Pro-gay


Firstly, for a while PepsiCo were distributing Rockstar Energy Drinks. This turned out to be a highly controversial franchise for them since the CEO and founder of Rockstar Energy Drinks – Russell Weiner – was the son and assistant of Dr Michael Weiner aka Michael Savage who hosted a conservative radio show, authored such books as Liberalism is a Mental Disorder, and denounced gays as ‘sodomites who should get AIDs and die’. But hey, I’m sure he’s a great dancer.

PepsiCo also sponsored a performance by Beenie Man who prompted more controversy. He caused a fuss with his horribly bigoted performance at a huge concert in Uganda, calling for the hanging of gay people. This was at the time that the Ugandan parliament discussed a bill that would have legalised the execution of homosexuals. Owch.

These elements prompted a limited boycott of Pepsi products in 2009. But at the same time there were conservative groups boycotting Pepsi. This was because Pepsi supported the Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG (Parents, Familes and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in the US. They also scored 100% in the HRC’s annual measure of inclusive employment policies.

The embarrassments are surely caused by the lack of oversight that any huge corporation suffers from. Still though…

VERDICT: Probably Pretty Anti-gay


I had no idea who General Mills were until I saw this video that’s been doing the rounds lately (embedding disabled).

What an eccentric performance. He sets some Cheerios on fire but loses control and runs off while his (or someone’s) kids laugh. Apparently General Mills sell Cheerios in the US but here in the UK they’re sold under the Nestle brand.

This was a protest about the company’s support of gay marriage. The state in which the company is based is proposing to ban gay marriage. General Mills then staged a conference in which the chief executive voiced the company’s opposition to the proposition, in front of an audience including over 400 gay employees. Then Ken Charles the vice president released an open letter which said:

"We do not believe the proposed constitutional amendment is in the best interests of our employees or our state economy… …We value diversity. We value inclusion."

Who can argue with that?

honey nut cheerios advert bee gay
 Also I suspect their bee is gay

VERDICT: Pro-gay


rainbow oreos gay pride 2012
 You knew this was coming

You must have seen this image already. Oreo put it on their Facebook page and then, later, released this statement:

"In recognition of Pride Month, Oreo created an ad depicting the Rainbow flag with different colors of Oreo crème. We are excited to illustrate what is making history today in a fun and playful way… …As a company, Kraft Foods has a proud history of celebrating diversity and inclusiveness. We feel the Oreo ad is a fun reflection of our values."

This has all inspired some limited boycotts but it’s been so unorganised that even other anti-gay organisations described the efforts as ‘iffy’, ‘a shambles’ and ‘an embarrassment to the cause’.

Personally I can’t decide whether I want to eat it or not. It’s never going to be sold but if it was, would you eat one? That’s a lot of food colouring and sugar… who am I fooling, of course I’d eat that. I’d probably eat five. At once. From my big, cookie-filled fist.

VERDICT: Are you kidding? Pro-gay


These buggers have been all over various news outlets for their highly publicised anti-gay political stance. The company has donated millions to anti-gay rights groups and Dan Cathy, the president and COO of the company, has said some pretty weird things.

It was a stupid comment from a stupid man about his stupid fast-food business. However, while gay rights groups have called for a boycott – also the hilarious and innovative protest form of homosexual kissing in front of the franchises – those with extreme anti-gay views are all piling in to munch on the chicken with righteous fervour. This really interesting article is written by a gay employee from deep inside the Chick-Fil-A kitchens. She makes the interesting point that the LGBT boycott also hurts the many LGBT employees in the company; that nobody can really afford to throw their job away no matter how unfriendly the corporate culture is. Sure the corporate culture is now even more openly unfriendly, but the customer culture sounds actually scarily bigoted.

She also reports that all the mobs of evangelical faithful are chewing through Chick-Fil-A stock at a record rate. That’s depressing so let’s have a look at a few of the Chick-Fil-A-Kiss-In Day pictures:

chick-fil-a gay kiss protest

chick-fil-a gay kiss protest
 Ohhh my!

chick-fil-a gay kiss protest baby girl

chick-fil-a gay kiss protest two baby girl

chick-fil-a gay kiss protest dog rubber chicken
 D’AAW-… Wait, what?

Also, for the sake of anyone not living in the US, apparently the name is not pronounced Chick-filler but more like Chick-Fill-Eh… or like the French pronunciation of ‘fillet’ I guess. I was calling it Chick-filler for a while. I think there’s a joke about heterosexuality in there somewhere.

VERDICT: Anti-gay


Muppets! Yaaay! When the Chick-Fil-A thing splurged messily all over the face of the news, the Jim Henson Company withdrew all its toys from the chicken meals and promised to donate whatever money came from those toys to GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). That’s pretty much the best thing any company could do when one of its friends goes evil. If I haven’t mentioned that I love the muppets and indeed the entire Henson ethos then I’ll say it here and now. I still get a bit tearful over Rainbow Connection.

Also in case you didn’t get the news, we all stopped speculating about Bert and Ernie years ago; the company has said time and again that they’re just flatmates. I would add that speculating about the sexuality of glove puppets is pretty redundant but then who doesn’t wonder about Kermit and Miss Piggy?

miss piggy kermit 80s eighties married wedding
Decades before Ross and Rachel

VERDICT: Pro-gay


Yep, I’m breaking out the big guns. Bill Gates has reportedly donated $100,000 to a same-sex marriage advocacy group, Washington United for Marriage. Of course, he wasn’t CEO of Microsoft at the time so his actions are no reflection of the corporate culture. Incidentally Steve Ballmer the CEO of Microsoft also donated the same amount to the same cause at the same time as part of the same event. Microsoft refuses to comment on political contributions made by its employees, even the CEO, stating that it respects the nature of personal decisions. However Microsoft has also endorsed gay marriage, writing on the official company blog that legalising gay marriage “would be good for our business and good for the state’s economy.” The company offers the Domestic Partner Health Benefits coverage, meaning some unmarried couples can share health benefits regardless of gender. Plus they have that rainbow logo.

windows 7 logo gay rainbow colour
VERDICT: Pro-gay


They offer the health benefits scheme for domestic partners too. Their first logo was a rainbow apple, Steve Jobs used to wear those fancy polo-neck jumpers almost exclusively and Tim Cook their current CEO is gay.

They also recently included gay couple icons, or ‘emojis’, on the menu of Apple’s iPhone iOS6:

gay emojis apple iphone app
Weird that they have no mouths but whatever

VERDICT: Anti-gay. HA I’m just being sarcastic. Pro-gay


In response to Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day (not the kissing events, the one where all the opinionated devout piled into the restaurants without warning the staff and masticate all of their chicken like Cookie Monsters) the various gay organisations have tried to organise a counter-display; something with the same numbers and turnout. Starbucks has been heavily involved in this, continuing their long history of supporting gay rights.

Remember the ‘dump Starbucks’ campaign, where everyone apparently had to buy a Starbucks drink and pour it down a drain or something? That was because Starbucks were supporting gay marriage. Somehow.

You see the obvious problem with it though, right? The protestors are still giving Starbucks their money. It helps that this backwards protest was organised by the National Organisation for Marriage’s division called the Corporate Fairness Project, the head of which is prominent Starbucks shareholder Jonathon Baker. I’m not saying it was his idea to protest Starbucks by giving them money but I’m sure he didn’t object too loudly when someone else came up with the idea.

This all sort of started when the Starbucks executive vice president of partner resources (aka Karen Holmes) published a memo about same-sex marriage:

“Starbucks is proud to join other leading Northwest employers in support of Washington state legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples. It is core to who we are and what we value as a company. We are proud of our Pride Alliance Partner Network group, which is one of the largest Employer Resource Groups for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) employees in the U.S., helping to raise awareness about issues in the communities where we live and work.”

Starbucks is also quick to add that they offer domestic partner health benefits, including dental.

VERDICT: Pro-gay

This is the biggest trump card ever. Google has one of the biggest political platforms ever in the form of their Google Doodles. Millions of people witness them, every day.

This one was from Valentine’s Day 2012:

Alright that’s a boy and a girl but the pictures at the very end – examples of loving marriages like cookies and milk, cats and dogs, aliens and astronauts – included two grooms getting married. These aren’t examples of surrealist couples, they’re examples of romance in an idealised world where love triumphs over conflict.

They also include the Legalize Love webpage on their site. They extensively outline their position on LGBT rights, including the constant search for new ways to educate the ‘broader community’ aka every ignorant bigot in the whole world. They have an employee network of LGBT employees, friends and allies. These are called the Gayglers and they’re rightfully proud about how there are Gaygler chapters across the whole world.

gay google pride gaygler
Rainbows again!

VERDICT: Pro-gaygler


Every year, more and more companies are providing health benefits for employee’s spouses and partners regardless of their gender – this demonstrably makes them more attractive employers and helps them headhunt and recruit desired talent. When companies make stupid anti-gay mistakes, most of them try to compensate.

In the case of Chick-Fil-A reporting increased sales since their elderly COO said all that stuff? There have also been other, much smaller companies (like wedding cake bakeries and such) that have released similar statements, attracting the same anti-gay business-boost. Starbucks’ attempt to generate this kind of response from the LGBT crowd had much less response. I’d like to think it’s because the intelligent, enlightened side of the debate isn’t going to blindly throw their money at a shop. It could just as easily be a rejection of Starbucks’ crass tactics, sheer laziness or because we already have the various Pride events for public demonstrations.

Discrimination is stupid. The future is obvious. Many people have likened Chick-Fil-A to the restaurants that used to have signs saying ‘no coloreds’ (despite Chick-Fil-A not actually banning anyone from their shops). Much like them however, Chick-Fil-A will one day have to serve humble pie. If you want to boycott every single pro-gay company then you have to get the hell off the internet, switch off your computer and, basically, go live in a cave.

I won’t miss you.


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