More companies featuring gay couples in adscomment (1)
June 12, 2014
By Carrie Brown McWhorter
While watching NBC’s coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, earlier this year, Phil Griffith was surprised to see gay couples featured prominently in several advertisements.
Though commercials shown during the weeks-long coverage of the Olympics do not usually get the same attention as those aired during the annual Super Bowl telecast, many of this year’s ads, including two from Chevrolet, were seen by many as direct responses to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on gay-rights activism.
For Griffith, an attorney in the United States Army who lives in Enterprise, the question was less about Russian law and more about the ads’ use of gay couples to appeal to U.S. audiences.
“Chevrolet is supposed to be selling cars, so the ads made me wonder why Chevrolet felt the need to use this issue to sell cars,” said Griffith, a member of First Baptist Church, Enterprise, in Coffee Baptist Association.
The Chevrolet ads are part of “The New Us” campaign for the Chevy Traverse and both debuted during the February Olympics coverage. In one of the ads, the narrator notes that “like the old love, the new love starts with a kiss,” and two men in formal attire jump over a broom, a wedding custom often associated with the African-American community.
A second version of the ad shows clips of several families, including a gay couple standing with their kids in a kitchen. As the images on the screen change, the narrator says, “While what it means to be a family hasn’t changed, what a family looks like has. This is the new us.”
Many companies — including Amazon, JCPenney, Crate & Barrel, American Airlines and Banana Republic — have featured gay characters in their ads in recent years. Some ads have appeared only in limited markets or online, while others have aired nationally.
In March, Nabisco joined the list with its “This is Wholesome” campaign for Honey Maid graham crackers. Like the Chevrolet ads, Nabisco’s campaign highlights the idea of a “change” in the makeup of the American family.
The “This is Wholesome” ad features a gay couple with their newborn baby, and a narrator’s voiceover describes Honey Maid as the snack for “wholesome families.” The ad’s slogan declares, “No matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will.” The Honey Maid ad has aired on network television around the country, according to AdAge.com, and has been viewed more than 7 million times on YouTube.
The Christian values advocacy group One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association, responded to the Nabisco ads in a statement posted online. The statement asserts that “Nabisco should be ashamed of themselves for their latest Honey Maid and Teddy Graham cracker commercial where they attempt to normalize sin. This commercial not only promotes homosexuality but then calls the scene in the advertisement wholesome. ... There is concern about the way this ad is pushing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) agenda, but an even greater concern is the way that they are changing the meaning of the word ‘wholesome.’”
In the statement, One Million Moms asks concerned members to contact Nabisco and Honey Maid executives and urge them to “pull this liberal commercial immediately and remain neutral in the culture war.”
In early April, Gary Osifchin, senior marketing director at Honey Maid owner Mondelez International Inc., appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and defended the “This is Wholesome” ad.
“It’s about recognizing that the American family dynamic and look has changed over the decade,” Osifchin said. “And our product line has changed in parallel with that changing American family dynamic.”
Ultimately advertising is about appealing to a target audience and selling products to those consumers, according to Cheryl Brown, a senior lecturer in marketing in the Richards College of Business at the University of West Georgia, Carrollton. Companies continually do market research to determine what social changes are occurring and how their consumers feel about those changes, and sometimes these changes influence the way a company markets its products, she said.
Based on consumers
“Consumers are the company’s primary concern,” Brown said. “A company must always be cognizant of their consumers’ beliefs and attitudes, since these factors influence both the types of products that people purchase and the effectiveness of various promotions.”
As a Christian and a consumer, Griffith worries that companies are favoring one segment of consumers over others, which is problematic for people like him who want to support companies that value their beliefs.
“I don’t really need to trace all the dollars, but Christians are a consumer group, and we need to be wise about where we’re spending our money,” Griffith said. “And when a company declares something to be wholesome that the Bible says is not the way things should be, then I’m going to think twice about buying their product.”