By Diane Anderson-Minshall
Originally published on Advocate.com August 09 2011 4:15 PM ET
Several new television and online ads feature images that speak to an LGBT audience — which is happily buying some, others not so much.
When J. Crew ran an ad last spring in which a boy had his toenails painted pink, it ignited a debate, with conservative pundits from Fox News and the Culture and Media Institute all but called for the head of J. Crew president Jenna Lyons. So the blog The New Civil Rights Movement fought back with an April 22 viral protest, asking everyone — regardless of gender — to paint their nails pink that one day.
Now that blog’s editor, David Badash, is taking Tide to task for its new ad featuring a mother, dressed in pink, who is upset that her daughter likes to wear hoodies, camouflage, and cargo shorts. “Does Tide really have a problem with gender variance? What’s wrong with girls wearing camouflage and cargo shorts?” Badash writes, calling out Tide for what he calls its “poor handling and poor attempt at humor, belittling and bullying all the young children who don’t conform to the stereotypical behavior of being a girl or a boy, and telling their parents, ‘it’s OK’ to be uncomfortable with your kids being who they are. However, not all LGBT commentators are upset with the ad. Some claim it’s clearly satirical, in support of tomboy girls and gender variance, with subtle humor in the vein of the famed lesbian film But I’m a Cheerleader.
Few ad watchers complained about the lesbian ad from Renault, the French automaker that used a seductive bedroom scene between two women to sell its cars earlier this year. According to the U.K. Daily Mail, the 30-second commercial, which has a blond and a brunet exchanging smoldering glances and then using a silk stocking as a blindfold, was nixed by some Italian TV networks but has become an online sensation.
Budweiser too got kudos for a new military-themed ad that many consider gay. The spot shows a soldier calling another man and saying, “It’s me. I’m coming home.” It then shows a split screen, with the soldier getting ready to go home and the other man preparing a party for him. At the end of the ad, the man is at the front of a group of people welcoming the soldier home, and the two men hug. Gay pundits on AfterElton.com wondered if this was Budweiser’s way of offering the first post–“don’t ask, don’t tell” gay military ad.
Two trans related ads are making waves too. According to TheSeattleLesbian.com, the first national television commercial campaign to come from a company selling exclusively to the transvestite and transgender market will air this fall. A clothing company called Suddenly Fem has released a 30-second commercial that will air on several national networks, including Bravo, E! Entertainment, Spike TV, and VH1. “We are thrilled to be able to promote our special brand on television,” vice president of marketing Tyler DeSouza told the site. “This sort of opportunity was not available when we started this company almost 20 years ago. The ability to market our quality products for the transgendered shopper has been a challenge over the years. I believe our sophisticated, respectful, high-end presentation helped us to get this opportunity and we look forward to many more avenues to expanding our brand name on TV and radio.”
Suddenly Fem’s ad is full of cross-dressers and transgender hotties selling clothes the way marketers have always done. Always, the maker of women’s menstrual products, used gender-bending with a whole different (and not generally well-received) bent.
The new Always viral ad shows a bevy of over-the-top, weeping drag queens (said to be “some of East London's finest transvestites”), and then copy flashes on the screen, saying, “There are some people who’d just love to have a period.” Jezebel.com’s savvy TV watcher summed up the shocked reaction from women from around the country best: “Hmm. Somehow that seems doubtful. Whomever came up with this ad doesn’t seem to understand drag queens. Or women.”
Watch the ads here and on the following pages.