Photograph by Mike Stewart/AP Photo

The Best and Worst in Gay Marketing

  1. Gay Advertising

    Gay Advertising

    Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy took a divisive stand on gay marriage, and it resulted in a sales windfall. As comedian Stephen Colbert pointed out, Chick-fil-A seems to have “stumbled on a new strategy to help struggling businesses in this down economy.” But the strategy is hardly a new one. Here are 10 of the most memorable (and sometimes disastrous) attempts to use homosexuality, either pro or con, as a marketing tool.

    Photograph by Mike Stewart/AP Photo
  2. Chevrolet Volt (2012)

    Chevrolet Volt (2012)

    General Motors (GM) did everything right with this print ad. First and foremost, the ad was actually funny. It features a Chevrolet Volt coming out of the closet to his gas-guzzling parents, announcing: "Mom, Dad, I'm electric." The ad ran in Between the Lines, a Michigan LGBT newspaper, during the Motor City Pride festival in June and cost the Detroit-based auto manufacturer just $750. GM got even more bang for its buck when the ad went viral. According to the Detroit Free Press, it had an estimated 11 million views on various online social media. That's roughly 14,666 potential customers for every dollar GM spent.

    Courtesy Cheverolet
  3. Snickers (2007)

    Snickers (2007)

    At best, this Super Bowl ad for Snickers was unfunny. At worst, it's tone-deaf and completely offensive. The premise—two straight guys eat the same candy bar, accidentally kiss, and then freak out—did not make a convincing case for Snickers to either gay or straight audiences. An alternate ending, posted briefly on the Snickers website, showed the men attacking each other—anything to prove they weren't gay.

    Masterfoods USA, the maker of Snickers, pulled the ads after receiving complaints. "As with all of our Snickers advertising, our goal was to capture the attention of our core Snickers consumer," spokeswoman Alice Nathanson said in a statement. And what better way to get their attention than reminding them of homosexual panic?

    Courtesy Youtube
  4. Target (2012)

    Target (2012)

    The Minneapolis-based discount chain has had a difficult time deciding where it stands on gay marriage. On the one hand, in 2011 Target (TGT) donated $150,000 to campaign ads for a Republican candidate who opposes gay marriage. But this summer the company released this surprising print ad for its wedding gift registry. In a state where gay marriage is not legal, Target touted an openly affectionate (and presumedly married) gay couple. So is Target pro-gay marriage now? “We strongly encourage our team members to exercise their right to vote in November,” a spokesman said in a statement.

    Courtesy Target
  5. Eclipse Fusion Gum (2007)

    Eclipse Fusion Gum (2007)

    This commercial wouldn't even be on the list if not for the American Decency Association, a Michigan evangelical advocacy organization. The ad for Eclipse Fusion gum, a Wrigley product, featured plenty of heterosexual activity, including a man and woman kissing. But it also showed two women exchanging flirty looks, which the ADA decried as a "strong allusion to lesbianism." The ADA's website called for a boycott on the grounds that "Wrigley is more concerned about appealing to the homosexual/lesbian consumer than it is about offending millions of Bible-believing Christians."

    Courtesy Youtube
  6. Altoids (2006)

    Altoids (2006)

    Taste tests have been a popular marketing promotion since the Pepsi Challenge of the mid-1970s. But rarely do they involve as much gyrating as seen in this 2006 commercial for Altoids sour candies. When a man dressed in jockey shorts covered in plastic fruit does a sexy dance, pumping his groin toward a blindfolded man and asking "Do you taste the fruit now?" you don't have to be an expert in subliminal advertising to know what's being suggested. The ads resulted in no complaints or calls for boycotts. Altoids sour candies were discontinued in 2008.

    Courtesy Youtube
  7. IKEA (1994)

    IKEA (1994)

    This campaign by Swedish furniture maker IKEA was definitely groundbreaking—it was one of the first mainstream U.S. ads to feature a same-sex couple in a positive light—but it was also controversial. After airing just once, in New York and Washington, D.C. (in both cases after 9:30 p.m.), the retailer received a bomb threat at one of its stores. What was so shocking and inappropriate about the ad? It starred a male, middle-aged gay couple shopping for a dining room table. It took 12 years for IKEA to premiere another gay-centric ad, and this time the couple was furniture shopping with a child. No bomb threats were reported.
    Courtesy Youtube
  8. Archie Comics (2012)

    Archie Comics (2012)

    Jonathan Goldwater, CEO of Archie Comics, doesn't think it's all that surprising that the historically conservative comic series would feature a gay wedding. "Riverdale accepts everybody," he says of the fictional town where Archie and the gang lives. "There’s no bigotry, no hatred." That didn't stop protests from the American Family Association, which threatened to boycott Toys “R” Us if the store carried the comic. The plan didn't work, and the gay wedding issue became the first Archie comic to sell out in the company's 69-year history. “Thanks to them, we now have thousands of new subscribers,” says a giddy Goldwater.

    Courtesy Archie Comics
  9. Miller Lite (2003)

    Miller Lite (2003)

    This campy commercial is the stuff of straight male fantasy. Two shapely women get into an argument about whether Miller tastes great or is less filling. They end up wrestling in a fountain and pulling off each other's clothes. At the end of the fight, one woman suggests "Let's make out!" (The resulting kiss was shown on an Internet-only version.) Miller received hundreds of e-mails, according to the company, evenly split between viewers who loved and hated the spot. "Let's face it," said Adweek critic Barbara Lippert. "No one ever went broke overestimating the visual stimulation of pneumatic boobs and lesbian scenarios."
    Courtesy Youtube
  10. American Apparel (2008)

    American Apparel (2008)

    This print ad for American Apparel (APP), the Los Angeles clothing manufacturer, is obviously targeted at gay or gay-friendly consumers. After all, the joke only makes sense if you realize that "bottoms and tops" isn't just a reference to clothing. (We're not explaining—go ask a gay friend.) Even readers who don't pick up on the sexual pun can probably figure out by the pink tank top and the naked male rear end that this ad is intended for a very specific demographic.
    Courtesy American Apparel
  11. 7UP (2002)

    7UP (2002)

    It doesn't get much more offensive than this 2002 spot for the lemon-lime soft drink. Inexplicably set in a prison, the ad follows 7UP spokesman Godfrey as he delivers a rapid-fire series of gay rape jokes. At one point, Godfrey drops a can and starts to bend over to retrieve it, only to think better of it: "Oh, I'm not picking that up." Get it? Because he might get raped. It's funny because it's ... so horrible? Hundreds of human-rights groups protested the ad, and it was pulled off the air by Dr Pepper/Seven Up. (DPS)

    Courtesy Youtube