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Gay Ads In 2002 Lack Taste

Posted on July 30, 2002 and read 11,289 times

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It was a year that gays and lesbians were presented frequently as sexual predators in prisons and parks. A year that Enrique Iglesias loves a man holding potato chips, a friendly giraffe is comfortable with his feminine side, and MTV continues to set the standard for everyone. It was the Year in Gay Ads for 2002.

Worst Taste – Bud Light, IKEA, Saturn, 7Up, Virgin Mobile, Yahoo

Though it had rarely popped up before, prison was suddenly a popular concept for humor in several gay-themed spots, Virgin Mobile featured Haitian-American musician Wycleff Jean showering in prison when a larger man asks him to pick up the soap — a reference to male rape. (Agency is Young & Rubicam.) Cadbury Schweppes ran a spot for 7Up that featured its spokesman in a prison, with a similar joke about bending over. (Young & Rubicam)

Buggering in the outside world was also a popular concept. General Motors’ carried a Saturn Vue commercial that recalls the 1972 movie “Deliverance,” about guys on a camping trip raped at gunpoint by hillbillies. When that film’s “Dueling Banjoes” song plays, the four men scramble from their campground. (Goodby Silverstein & Partners) In England, Yahoo ran a spot featuring a man tied naked in a park as an older man in a purple hat and scarf smiles at his derriere. (Euro RSCG)

Prison jokes were not solely men’s territory. IKEA ran a print ad in Los Angeles called “Tax Evasion Day” that featured a woman in jail with another woman aggressively making the moves on her unhappy cellmate. (Crispin Porter + Bogusky)

Virgin Mobile had several gay-themed ads in 2002, and another seemed to perpetuate the urban myth about gay men’s alleged sexual interest in cuddly rodents with an ad starring a hamster — but no reference to Richard Gere. (Young & Rubicam)

In perhaps the most bizarre sexual reference, Anheuser-Busch ran a Bud Light commercial called “Opener” about a man hiding under a bar. His rear end sticks out and is “confused” by the bartender with a bottle opener, as a triumphant softball team orders 30 beers, assuring him of a brutal anal assault. (DDB Needham)

Most Clichéd Stereotypes – Budget, IKEA

Budget Rent A Car’s ongoing campaign about rejected commercial ideas brings them to movers with roller skates — featuring a ’70s-era, feminine and overweight disco dancing troupe. (Cliff Freeman)

A European ad for IKEA, called “A Woman or Nearly,” stars an attractive woman putting on makeup who then hits “her” crotch on a table and yelps as a man. (Leagas-Delaney)

Most in Denial – Doritos, Baileys

What seemed like an inspired Doritos commercial featuring pop megastar Enrique Iglesias was later downplayed by owner Pepsi. In the ad, Iglesias performs onstage and says when he sings he tries to find someone with “something that makes me fall in love.” His eyes then lock on the only man in his audience — he’s holding a bag of chips. (BBDO) A spokeswoman denied the humor was intended to be about Iglesias falling for a man.

In Australia, Pepsi ran into trouble with an ad about a wrestler who tries to kiss his opponent and is offered a head butt. (BBDO) The gay community opposed its violence in response to a male kiss, but Pepsi stood firm.

A Baileys ad features a woman playing pool with three guys, one of whom secretly empties her drink. At the end, she hugs one guy and the other two guys hug too. (J. Walter Thompson) Bailey’s parent Diageo says that the U.S. ad’s gay reading was not intended. In Europe, two more gay-themed Baileys ads are running. Despite three ads, and years-long gay marketing, Diageo awkwardly refused to discuss its commercials.

Most Gay Vague – Volkswagen, Bissell

Remember the gay vague “Da Da Da” commercial during the coming out episode of “Ellen”? Volkswagen has done it again with several ads. One features a mock marriage with two men, and another called “Roasted” (Arnold) has two young guys get out of their Jetta and look at each other in what seems a romantic moment (the intended joke is each has just half a tan). This past year VW finally initiated gay marketing as well, running mainstream ads in gay media.

Meanwhile in Brazil, an ad for the Gol (Golf in America) that angered the gay community was pulled and resulted in VW offering equal benefits to gay employees. In the commercial, a masculine man approaches a woman, but suddenly turns into an queen who asks her about her lipstick — she turns away disgusted. (BBDO)

Meanwhile, Bissell vacuums feature a popular biker hunk leading a club of stereotype-breaking buddies who arrange flowers, needlepoint and cheer to figure skating. (Campbell-Ewald)

Most Comfortable – Toys ‘R’ Us, Heineken, Claxson

The Toys ‘R’ Us mascot, Geoffrey the giraffe, shows three girls around a redesigned store and tells them about the new Barbie section. When one girl crosses her arms with a frown and says with implication, “You sure know a lot about Barbie!” Geoffrey simply replies, “I’m perfectly comfortable with that.” (Leo Burnett)

Heineken featured an unusual look at bisexuality in an ad, where a woman at a table between a man and a woman finds that both of them are playing with her legs under the table — and smiles at her fortune. (DMB&B)

A satellite TV service in Argentina, i.sat features five men watching a soccer match and jump for joy at a goal?except the macho celebration turns into simulated sex. (In Jaus)

Leader of the Year – MTV

Viacom’s MTV network is music to the ears of gay youth. With 25 gay inclusive on-air promotional ads since 1996, and no signs of slowing, MTV is the advertiser with far more ads than any other company, ever.

Many of its in-house created efforts fearlessly included same-sex kisses, and through partnerships with GLSEN and Black Entertainment Television, offered education about homophobia, and the impact of HIV/AIDS, drugs and violence on gay men and gays of color. The progressive network, with numerous programs that include gays, is also the place where countless gay-themed commercials from others have run over the years.

Michael Wilke is the Director of The Commercial Closet The World’s Largest Collection of Gay Advertising. A former AdvertisingAge reporter, he has charted the emergence of gay marketing and advertising since 1992




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