Making history this week, President Obama finally declared his support of same-sex marriage, the first such declaration by a U.S. president. Now it's time for brands to step up and get over any aversion to showing same-sex couples in their campaigns.
Case in point: Gap’s new billboard featuring a real-life same-sex couple — Tony nominee Rory O'Malley and his boyfriend Gerold Schroeder — helps bridges the gap a little bit more between mainstream advertising and homophobic prejudice.
Featured prominently on a Los Angeles corner, the ad is part of Gap’s "Be Bright" campaign and the handsome couple are certainly a significant step in the brand’s efforts to reinvigorate lackluster sales and enlarge its customer embrace.
JCPenney, under its new "Fair and Square" tagline, continues to fight the good fight, too, facing down conservative pressure groups like One Million Moms by choosing openly gay Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson and recently featuring a lesbian couple and their daughter on their Mother's Day catalog.
OMM earlier this year targeted Urban Outfitters for a kiss between two female models in its catalog, and now they’re back on J.C.Penney’s case for the Mother’s Day catalog with this statement:
“On pages ten and eleven, under the title "Freedom of Expression," you'll find "Wendi and her partner Maggie and daughters" and again "Wendi, daughters Raven and Clover, and partner Maggie" in text. In the picture both women are wearing wedding bands. OMM is urging its base to complain to their local JCPenney store manager.
A JCPenney spokesperson issued this response via the Hollywood Reporter: "As jcpenney focuses on becoming America’s favorite store, we want to be a store for all Americans. In celebration of Mother’s Day, we’re proud that our May book honors women from diverse backgrounds who all share the heartwarming experience of motherhood."
While the fashion industry leads in same-sex images in campaigns, as Jezebel points out it also raises the question, “When was the last time you saw a gay person in a U.S. ad for a car? Given angry U.S. fringe groups (like the so-called One Million Moms, who opposed DeGeneres' J.C. Penney contract) are able to generate weeks of talkback outrage over something as innocent as, say, a picture in a clothing catalog of a little boy with painted toenails, it's not surprising that few big companies (outside of fashion) are willing to include gay characters in their ads. But the lack of representation leaves weird gaps in the discourse.”
Some members of the LGBT community might argue that JCPenney didn't go far enough, as the brand is only showing a same-sex couple in their mom-centric May catalog (which also features Cindy Crawford, her mom and daughter) and not in their May TV campaign:
New research on the issue from YouGov BrandIndex indicates, the dust-up appears to be boosting JCP's brand perception with the store's key demo of moms: "Perhaps J.C. Penney should send a thank you note to conservative group One Million Moms each time they issue a statement complaining about the retail chain. The protests of One Million Moms seem to coincide with positive jolts in JC Penney’s consumer perception with mothers."
Indeed, "each time One Million Moms has protested a move from the retail chain, their consumer perception from mothers soars past the levels of Kohls." Take a look at their chart below:
More food for thought: check out campaigns from inclusive brands like J.Crew, Levi's, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Ray Ban, Armani, Calvin Klein, Toshiba, Abercrombie & Fitch, Smirnoff, Versace, and Wells Fargo in "Ten of the Greatest Gay-Themed Ads Ever" — and let us know what you think in the comments below.