If we take a look at the world around us it is clear that we have come a long way in terms of gay rights. In the US yesterday the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy was revoked, which in theory will allow gay and lesbian members of the US military to be open about their sexuality. Although this is a definitive step in the right direction towards equality we still have a long way to go. Over recent years we have seen a shift in the use of LGBTs in marketing campaigns, with many brands taking measurable efforts to demonstrate that they are ‘gay friendly’.
However some of these campaigns might not necessarily be going about it the right way. Brands seemingly try to create an air of surprise and humour around the subject – as with Silverjet’s campaign for female-only toilets, or the a-typical depiction of lesbians being the ultimate male fantasy.
The use of gay imagery isn’t the issue here. It’s the way brands are using it that stands out. Historically many campaigns appear to have shoehorned in the imagery rather than working out whether or not it is a natural fit for their message. It is important that all demographics are depicted but there currently seems to be a lack of naturalism involved with the use of gay imagery – a classic example being this Toyota TV ad campaign where the father mistakes his daughter’s date to be a man due to the way she drives. Very few advertising campaigns seem to achieve the right message, but some do come close. One of these is Lloyds TSB, who chose to use an image of a gay couple instead of the typical straight married couple. The advertising is simple and doesn’t make a big song and dance of the fact that they are an open minded company.
Society is getting there even if it’s taking its time. Advertising can help steer this shift, once they begin to engage with gay communities in a more natural and positive way then potentially the rest will fall into place.