When Expedia decided to begin running on television this month a commercial it had introduced online in October, about a father’s trip to attend his daughter’s wedding to another woman, the media plan was drawn up to include Logo, the cable channel aimed at gay and lesbian viewers. But the commercial is also running on networks watched by general audiences, like CNN, History, MSNBC and the National Geographic Channel.
“As we were making our Web site more personal, we wanted to get back to the idea that travel is really personal,” said Sarah Gavin, director for public relations and social media at Expedia in Seattle, and “equality is a core part of who we are.”
The Expedia decision is indicative of a significant change in how marketers are disseminating ads with so-called L.G.B.T. themes, for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. For the last two or three decades, such ads were usually aimed at L.G.B.T. consumers, placed in media those consumers watch and read, and then supplemented with tactics that included event marketing like floats in Pride Month parades.
Recently, however, L.G.B.T. ads have been getting broader exposure. While targeted media and events remain part of the game plan, they are also running in mainstream media that, in addition to general cable channels, include magazines like Family Circle, newspapers like The New York Times and social media like Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube.
One goal is to reach families, friends and straight allies of L.G.B.T. 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, which was created by the Los Angeles office of 180, part of the Omnicom Group. “We wanted to start a conversation.”
Another goal is to signal support for L.G.B.T. 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.”
The list of marketers that are casting a wider net with their L.G.B.T. ads reads like a Who’s Who of Madison Avenue. In addition to Expedia, they 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 L.G.B.T. 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, and 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.”
The MasterCard campaign, which is being handled by R/GA in New York, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, is composed of social media and event marketing. “We’ll see how the conversation is liked and shared,” Mr. Badian said, “and if we could extend it out to traditional media.”
Like MasterCard’s effort, an L.G.B.T. campaign for Lucky Charms cereal, sold by General Mills, is composed of social media and event marketing. The agencies in the Lucky Charms campaign, which carries the theme and hashtag “Lucky to be,” are McCann Always On, part of the McCann Erickson New York unit of Interpublic, and Street Factory Media in Minneapolis.
“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, Minn., partly because each box contains three kinds of pieces shaped like rainbows, “one of the universal symbols of acceptance.”
So far, almost all comments about “Lucky to be” have been “really positive,” Mr. Pearson said, without the kind of reaction suffered by a commercial with an interracial cast for another General Mills cereal, Cheerios. That drew so many vituperative remarks on YouTube that the commenting function was disabled.
There are many complaints, along with more than 15,500 “likes,” on the Facebook fan page for Grey Poupon mustard, sold by Kraft Foods, regarding an L.G.B.T. ad posted on Monday depicting two men from a revived version of the brand’s signature car commercial holding hands. The negative remarks include “gross,” “sick” and “you just lost another buyer.” The ad was created by Crispin Porter & Bogusky, part of MDC Partners.
For Expedia’s commercial, the response has been “mixed,” Ms. Gavin said. “There are a lot of folks who applaud us and a lot of folks who aren’t happy.”
That will not deter Expedia, she added, because she believes that time is on the company’s side. “In 10 years,” she asked, “is this even a conversation we’ll have any more?”
Mr. Wilke echoed Ms. Gavin. Marketers “are increasingly feeling comfortable about being inclusive,” he said. “This will continue to gather steam.”
Stuart Elliott, The New York Times. June 25, 2013
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