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Trojan Finally Gets Into Bed With Gays

Posted on July 30, 2002 and read 15,101 times

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Condoms and lubricant go together like porn and VCRs. While no condom marketers have fully taken the wrapper off the gay market yet, Trojan is slipping into gay media for the first time with its new lubricant, and initiating condom sampling.

Appearing in September issues of The Advocate and OUT with a small general market ad that says “Slipperier when wet,” Trojan Personal Lubricant joins Johnson & Johnson’s omnipresent KY, along with specialty brands Wet, I-D, Astroglide, Probe, Frixion, and others in the $60 million water-based lube market.

J&J’s KY Plus, containing nonoxynol -9, appeared in gay media in 1996 and since 2000 ads for Liquid KY have run regularly with the suggestive headline, “H2Ohhh.” The brand is currently running a sweepstakes in gay media.

Trojan lubricant comes in plain or berry flavor, while Westridge Laboratories’ I-D offers 12 tastes, including bubble gum, caramel cream, pina colada and watermelon, accompanied by a sexy ad featuring two men squirting each other with the product.

Why Have Condom Marketers Been Missing?

Even though gay men seem an obvious target in the overall $275 million American condom market, marketers have largely abstained.

In the U.S., Trojan dwarfs its competitors in sales and ad spending but Ansell’s LifeStyles condoms brand was the only one to ever make an appearance — a small ad in the back of The Advocate in 1992 — but didn’t return due to a limp ad budget.

In Australia, Ansell has a different approach. It has run ads in gay magazine Blue since 2000, the erotic gay-specific ad features a man’s hand tied to the bedpost with a condom and another man behind him in bed. Another for the brand, introduced this year, shows a naked man bent over himself and encourages readers to “Eat more fruit” — its strawberry flavored lubricant.

Joe Landry, publisher of The Advocate and OUT, says that he struggled for two years to bring condom ads into the magazine when he joined in 1995 and has all but given up. “They said they haven’t been tested on anal intercourse and so they’re staying away from gay media,” he says. (Indeed, Trojans specify on packaging that “any use” for “other than vaginal intercourse can increase the potential of damage to the condom.”)

Even leading AIDS service providers like Gay Men’s Health Crisis, which give away countless condoms, have no marketing agreements with companies but simply purchase them wholesale from various companies.

Dick Connor, openly gay group product manager for Trojan, explains, “It’s really a resource allocation issue. The pie has been so small that there’s been no slice for the gay market.”

Until recently, the brand was supported heavily in mainstream magazines to reach men 18-34, such as GQ and Men’s Fitness, which the company argued also reached gay men. Network TV rejected condom ads due to conservative politics, even during the height of AIDS, but since 2000 started accepting them in late night hours and on cable channels. Because print costs less than TV, manufacturers first had small ad budgets and Trojan was supported by less than $2 million, competing brands almost nil.

Trojan Warms Up to Gay Men

But recent changes are bringing Trojan closer to gay men, even if its presence is modest. The brand passed in late 2001 from Carter-Wallace to Armkel, an affiliate of Kelso & Co. and Church & Dwight, which also oversees distribution for Arrid, Pearl Drops and Nair. In January, Nair for Men began appearing in gay media. (Nair and Nivea Groom Gay Men, March 2002)

Trojan’s ad budget has grown and, under Connor’s stewardship, is now testing the gay market with the new lubricant brand extension and condom giveaways.

“We’ve had limited resources but as we’ve gotten a bigger budget, I’ve chosen consumer promotion” for the gay market, says Connor. In June, the first Trojan condom promotions were tried at Gay Pride events in Houston, Washington DC and San Francisco, with booths that gave away 100,000 rubbers. While more city event giveaways are expected, there are still no plans for condom ads in the gay press.

Connor says despite Trojan’s previous absence in the gay market, the company has regularly researched it. “We’re all assessing our strengths and weaknesses on an ongoing basis. Our share among the gay market is relative to our share of the general population of about 65%.”

But it’s easy for Trojan to stay on top when no others are vying for the gay dollar.

Not many products have the benefit of being regularly called necessary and lifesaving. But to truly get into bed with gay men, Trojan will need to work still harder to raise its profile, build a consistent presence, and reconsider the usage language on its packaging.

The Commercial Closet project is a unique, non-profit education and journalism organization dedicated to charting the evolving worldwide portrayals of the gay community in mainstream advertising.

Its goal is to educate advertising agencies, marketers and the world-at-large as an ongoing journalistic effort and through sharing its collection and observations on how gays are represented as a minority group in commercials worldwide.


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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