Coca-Cola earned a perfect 100 from the Human Rights Campaign in the US and just debuted a commercial in the UK featuring a gay wedding. But it cut the wedding scene for the commercial in Ireland and has chosen to sponsor the winter Olympics in Russia, which is coming under heavy fire for its new anti-gay law and indifference to homophobic violence.
In a red carpet interview last week at SXSW, James Franco suggested that he has been dropped from three advertising campaigns due to his involvement in two gay-oriented films he put out at Sundance, and not due to his image as the companies reported. He produced Kink and co-directed and starred in a forthcoming Travis Matthews film, Interior.Leather Bar. Franco suggested that this exemplifies the homophobia that still exists in American media. As many advertisers have already begun to notice, gays and lesbians will only continue to become an increasingly visible part of American society. While the exact reason for Franco having been dropped from these campaigns is unclear at this time, the depiction of raw gay sexuality as portrayed in these films was no doubt part of the conversation. Other explicit films depicting heterosexual sex rarely if ever raise an eyebrow among the public, and neither should these.
After three years in the gay and lesbian marketplace for Cadillac, GM Corp. is taking things to the next level with custom-created ads showing a male couple together for the Cadillac DTS in the crowded gay parking lot.
It is the first gay specific ad for GM too, even though the company's other brands Saab and Saturn have been in the marketplace for over a decade.
The Cadillac print ad, part of the general market "Life. Liberty. And the Pursuit" campaign from Modernista, Boston, features a scruffy driver in his 20s, dressed in a black shirt with a Miami Vice-style jacket, accompanied by another man riding in a black DTS.
"We wanted to put a face on the brand," says John Gasloli, national advertising manager for Cadillac. "We previously focused on the product and wanted to pull in more of the emotional."
The new ad was shot simultaneously with the general market campaign, Gasloli explains, where "we cast a large cross section of people, with a variety of ages, gender groupings and looks." For the Cadillac DTS, the photo shoot included four young guys and two young guys together, he says.
"I was on the shoot looking ahead to our print buy, knowing we'd be in Out, The Advocate and Instinct, but it happened naturally and organically," Gasloli says.
Yet special casting for the gay ad wasn't a consideration, the openly gay Gasloli says. "As a gay male, what is the 'gay look?' In my opinion, it only becomes a stereotype."
Gasloli arrived at Cadillac a year ago, so he didn't bring the brand into the gay market, but he did lead the way at his last company, Volkswagen. He was at the helm of VW for five years as brand manager and introduced a major U.S. gay market campaign for the German car company. For it, they commissioned photographer John Arsenault to shoot popular gay spots like Provincetown, Mass., Palm Springs, and Los Angeles. The shots were featured in a print ad campaign and original prints were sold with proceeds benefiting Provincetown's Fine Arts Work Center and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center.
"I was responsible for it," Gasloli notes with pride. "I put together a five-year business case and the custom creative for print and online, and the sponsorships." Another print ad that ran in 2003 Pride publications showed a convertible Beetle with the headline, "It's a you parade."
However, after his departure from VW in October 2005, the gay market campaign disappeared. "You need an internal champion," he explains. "Once that person's gone, it's difficult for them to carry the torch. It's still near to my heart."
Asked about how Cadillac's campaign has done in the gay market across its three years, Gasloli notes that there are no specific metrics currently in place. "We look at how our campaign is doing from a broader aspect, such as image rankings." But he adds, "We understand the importance in the marketplace for luxury products and an absence from us would be missed."
General Motors brands have had the longest presence in the gay automotive marketplace, though always with general market ads in gay media. Saturn landed in OUT magazine in 1995 just once, then Saab began a decade-long consistent presence in 1996, making it the first car brand with years-long staying power. Subaru followed shortly after Saab, and Saturn later returned in 1999 for a lengthy campaign since then.
Competitors Volkswagen and Ford Motor joined in 2001 with its Jaguar and Volvo brands, and in 2004 DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes and Toyota's Scion drove into the gay market too. Last year, Toyota's Lexus joined the fray.
Subaru, Mercedes, Jaguar, and Volvo all entered the market with custom gay creative, so Cadillac and GM have been more conservative. Still, in November 2004, GM held the first automotive program specifically designed for the gay press, "Out on the Road" in San Francisco. The event's invitation noted "GM is formally acknowledging the value and power of gay consumers," and included appearances by "Queer Eye" star Ted Allen and actor Antonio Sabato Jr.
BMW, which has had a periodic presence since 1999 in non-national publications such as Pride guides, last month launched a gay vague campaign with bus shelters in West Hollywood provocatively stating, "When the top's away the car will play," and "Hard top. Firm bottom. It's so L.A." for its retractable hard top 335i model.
Clearly, the increasingly crowded car category is raising the bar for marketers, even for the more conservative ones and those yet to arrive, including Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, and more domestic brands.
Cadillac's Gasloli says that Cadillac ad spending is slowly increasing, and that he's now looking at Viacom's gay network LOGO as a possible new medium, where it would join sister brands Saab and Saturn, and one of LOGO's founding sponsors, Subaru.\n