’Twas a year of firsts, make no mistake about that. Not only did the Supreme Court legalize same-sex marriage throughout the land and Caitlyn Jenner became the first trans person to grace a Vanity Fair cover, but advertisers embraced “the gays” with open arms.
Last week, Allstate joined the yuletide party with its “Here’s to firsts” campaign featuring two dads with a cute-as-a-button baby girl. Only the Grinch — or maybe Kentucky clerk Kim Davis — could resist loving this modern family. The insurance company joins other major brands — including Campbell’s Soup, Chevrolet, Hallmark, Honey Maid, Ikea, Kohl’s, Maytag and Tylenol — that have come on board with LGBT-inclusive commercials and social media campaigns in the past year.
“Marketers have been moving for many years toward including more lesbian and gay consumers in ads, part of a trend reflecting the changing demographics of the American public,” Stuart Elliott, who has covered advertising for more than three decades, told me. He added that since the court’s ruling in June, LGBT-inclusive commercials have become “more widespread.” To that point, GLAAD’s chief executive, Sarah Kate Ellis, said, “These ads have the potential to accelerate much needed acceptance of the LGBT community.”
Here are my picks for the year’s more memorable gay-friendly commercials — many of them bringing new meaning to the “Deck the Halls” lyric “Don we now our gay apparel!”
“Family isn’t defined by who you love, but how,” is the voiceover to Tylenol’s recent campaign celebrating the diversity of modern families; all of the commercials were directed by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. Among the many different families portrayed is one including same-sex prom dates, and another has a pair of interracial gay fathers with their son.
Explains one of the dads: “I have a family. Show me what normal is. . . . Show me what you think families should look like. It doesn’t exist. Throughout history, throughout time, family comes in all shapes and sizes.” Two snaps to Tylenol and Black for powerfully showing us the new normal of family life.
“Home. Heart. Holiday.” Oh, and two handsome hunks, one Nordstrom shopping bag and a partridge in a pear tree. Actually, instead of a partridge, it’s their loyal doggy. Currently featured on Nordstrom’s YouTube page, the commercial’s description — “Home is the heart of the holiday season” — is as white bread as the two Caucasian actors picked directly from central casting. (“Send me two gay white yuppies, stat!”) Spoiler alert: The spot ends with a short but sweet smooch between the fellow coming home and his four-legged beast, then with his two-legged hunk.
Just in time for the opening of “The Force Awakens,” Campbell’s “Star Wars”-themed chicken noodle soup commercial features another set of gay dads and their little fella. Dad No. 1 does his best Darth Vader impersonation — “I am your father” — while feeding some “Mmm, mmm good” soup to his son, when Dad No. 2 tries to convince the boy that he’s the real Vader. Delicious . . . to a point. A Slate reporter had a more cynical take, writing, “No real, real life gay man would ever allow canned condensed soup . . . anywhere near his home.”
This beautiful commercial by Wells Fargo features a lesbian couple, reportedly a real-life couple, learning sign language in anticipation of meeting their adoptive, deaf daughter. “We’re going to be your new mommies,” one of them signs to the young girl as they first meet. “I’m so happy,” she adds. The girl signs back: “I’m happy, too.”
Okay, this one made me weepy. In a happy way. What’s making me even happier: When the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association pulled its accounts from Wells Fargo and called for a boycott of the bank, Wells Fargo said no to hate and yes to family. The campaign continues.
On my wish list for next year: Commercials and social media campaigns that include the “T” in LGBT and move past the most obvious stereotypes. How about some ads depicting gay and lesbian couples without the requisite cute baby accessory? They’re families, too.