Gay-Themed Ads Are Becoming More Mainstream
Posted by: Lowie Jim Palisoc
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Is Coke gay friendly or not?
Posted by: Mike Wilke
Coca-Cola earned a perfect 100 from the Human Rights Campaign in the US and just debuted a commercial in the UK featuring a gay wedding. But it cut the wedding scene for the commercial in Ireland and has chosen to sponsor the winter Olympics in Russia, which is coming under heavy fire for its new anti-gay law and indifference to homophobic violence.
James Franco Dropped By Advertising Campaigns Over His Gay Themed Films
Posted by: Adam Stazer
In a red carpet interview last week at SXSW, James Franco suggested that he has been dropped from three advertising campaigns due to his involvement in two gay-oriented films he put out at Sundance, and not due to his image as the companies reported. He produced Kink and co-directed and starred in a forthcoming Travis Matthews film, Interior.Leather Bar. Franco suggested that this exemplifies the homophobia that still exists in American media. As many advertisers have already begun to notice, gays and lesbians will only continue to become an increasingly visible part of American society. While the exact reason for Franco having been dropped from these campaigns is unclear at this time, the depiction of raw gay sexuality as portrayed in these films was no doubt part of the conversation. Other explicit films depicting heterosexual sex rarely if ever raise an eyebrow among the public, and neither should these.
|Benetton Goes Gay With Sisley
by Michael Wilke
While most fashion brands use sexy models to sell their clothes, Benetton Group's Benetton USA Corp. is known for its not-so-pretty, controversial advertising that depicts the likes of a frail man with AIDS and death row inmates. Though it has toyed with gay vague imagery before, the Benetton Group has never directly dealt with gay themes – until now.
The Italian clothing company's obscure Sisley brand is trying on envelope-pushing ads, one of which looks something like the beginning of a gay porn movie.
In the March issue of OUT magazine, Sisley's ad shows a shirtless young man reclined in bed as he pushes another guy's face toward his crotch (just a thin band of clothing remains). And in coded reference to young males, known as "chicken," the ingredients for a Palm Springs Chicken Salad appears on the page with the boyish couple.
Unlike Benetton ads, Sisley's first gay media advertising is sexually charged and out of the closet.
"Sisley is a sexy brand, it's about sex and feeling sexy when you're wearing the product," says Benetton spokesman Mark Major. "There are not a lot of companies in Out doing this."
Despite the fashion industry's omnipresent use of sex to sell its merchandise – often "forgetting" to include the very clothing they're trying to sell – few have actually used overtly gay imagery. Designers including Calvin Klein, Gucci, Versace, Abercrombie & Fitch and even Benetton itself have only teased consumers with gay vague imagery.
In 1994, Benetton created an ad with two twenty-something men wearing pastel shirts in a cheek-to-cheek embrace that left many wondering if the two were a couple. The ad appeared on billboards and in OUT magazine but the company said they were not supposed to be seen as gay, that they were in fact twins.
The company also ran a TV ad in 1995 with openly lesbian model Jenny Shimizu, with tattoos and short hair. She talks about the dress "that you love more than your boyfriend – but let's not get started on that."
What a difference a decade makes. Now, Benetton is willing to be more upfront about its purpose with those ads. "We were vague about all that," says Major. "If you provide your intentions, it might affect what people see and we want to challenge people to think."
Major takes a much more open position on Sisley's ad strategy. "A lot of (advertisers) in OUT use images that are quasi-gay. We're one of the only ones really positioned to the market, we're not trying to just smooth it over."
Photographer Terry Richardson shot the campaign that also appears in Details, Paper and other magazines with a gay, fashion-conscious audience. While the March Details ad was more sedate — showing two shirtless guys sucking on popsicles — other creatives for the campaign feature women in very sexual poses, some revealing bare breasts and bottoms. One of these ran as a billboard in lower Manhattan and garnered complaints, so the ad came down after a month. Other shots in Sisley's catalog include two men making out on a couch and two men walking hand-in-hand, one wearing a cartoon-like horse's head.
Kurt Demars, associate publisher at OUT, says Benetton "has always pushed the envelope." The clothing company took heat in 1989 when it began advertising men and women with "HIV+" tattoos. In 1992, Benetton drew more criticism when it advertised a bed-ridden man with advanced AIDS in mainstream media.
Sisley is Benetton's first return to gay media since 1995; its first ad in Out was of the affectionate male twins in 1994 for Benetton. Continues Demars, "I usually tell advertisers that gay-specific creative certainly can help them if it's done properly, but it's never necessary."
OUT now gets gay-specific ads between 10 percent and 15 percent of the time, a number Demars says is on the rise.
A prominent brand in Europe with about 1,000 stores there, Sisley has only been in the US for two years with four outlets: New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Washington metro. Originally a French denim brand, Sisley was acquired by Benetton in 1978 and broadened to men's and women's upscale casual and sportswear. Benetton itself opened in the U.S. in 1980 and now has about 175 stores here, some of which sell the Sisley line.
Previously, a handful of other fashion ads have employed same-sex couples, including Banana Republic and Italian counterparts Dolce & Gabbana and Diesel. D&G ran two separate print ad pairings of men and one female couple wearing wedding rings in February 1999, while early in the decade Diesel had a dramatic lip-lock print ad from former couple Bob and Rod Jackson-Paris as well as two sunglasses-wearing nurses about to smooch. Banana Republic showed two men together in a 1992 Vanity Fair ad.
For now, Benetton is not planning on adding gay-specific advertising to its main line, which just completed a controversial $20 million "We, On Death Row" campaign that dealt with the issue of capital punishment. But Major says Sisley is expected to continue its sexy, gay-themed advertising.
As Major explains, Benetton's ad director Oliviero Toscani likes to challenge consumers with his advertising. "His agenda is to push people's thinking. He feels the way sex is a taboo subject in the US is hypocritical and that we're our own worst enemies. Why do we tell children a baby comes from a stork?"\n