Gay Advocacy Group to Monitor Web Ad Creative

A gay advocacy organization plans to monitor online ads in an effort to ensure advertising across all platforms portrays lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in a positive light. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has deemed brands like Snickers as defamatory in the past, and aims to work directly with ad agencies to help promote its cause.

“We’re letting corporations and advertisers and businesses in this space know that we are there…and we don’t want to be defamed,” said GLAAD Senior Director of Media Programs Rashad Robinson. “Our goal is to promote more fair, accurate, and inclusive images,” he said, noting the group plans not only to observe advertising creative, but to train agencies about best practices in incorporating gay images in ads.

The Advertising Media Program will launch officially May 18, when GLAAD plans to commend Levi’s and Wells Fargo for using positive gay images in their ad and sponsorship efforts. Levi’s for instance, ran a multimedia campaign last year featuring downloadable content, display advertising, and sponsored content on Viacom’s LGBT-aimed Logo channel, some of which was available online and on mobile phones. Levi’s has an extension of that “Logo Unbuttoned” campaign on the Logo site, featuring a quiz that asks, “How Unbuttoned Are You?”

“We’ve had a lot of work reacting to negative images,” Robinson told ClickZ News. “We realized after we did our five-year strategy plan that…this is an important space to have a more proactive [approach],” he continued, noting the organization will hire a full time staffer to head up the new ad program.

Although GLAAD praises corporations perpetuating positive gay images, the group continues to battle negative stereotypes. Recently, the organization asked used car firm Carmax to remove a TV ad from its site it deemed offensive. The ad depicted a man flirting with someone with long hair he perceived to be female, who revealed himself as male when he turned around. The ad implied the male-male flirtation was “not smart.” Carmax took the ad down from its site and, according to GLAAD, agreed not to run it in local television markets any longer.

An online extension of a 2007 Snickers Super Bowl campaign also raised GLAAD dander. The Super Bowl TV ad for the candy brand depicted two car mechanics unwittingly kissing eachother, then deciding they must “do something manly” to counteract it. To complement the televison effort, Snickers owner Masterfoods offered a series of alternate ad endings on, one showing the men beating eachother following the smooch, and another in which they guzzled motor oil and windshield wiper fluid to neutralize the encounter.

“Some of the most egregious and defamatory content was online,” said Robinson of the Snickers campaign, which was taken down by Masterfoods following complaints by GLAAD and others. The TV spot can still be viewed on YouTube.

Potentially offensive content or advertising is “easier to get away with [online],” said Robinson. “There are opportunities for real niche marketing…. It might not necessarily offend people as quickly.”

Still, Robinson acknowledged the Web can also serve as a place for advertisers to try creative with gay themes or images. “It can oftentimes be a safer space and testing ground for potential campaigns for advertisers that are feeling not as confident about [them] right off the bat,” he said.

In its previous media and advertising education efforts, GLAAD has shown its training presentations to agencies including BBDO, Ogilvy & Mather, Y&R, and various advertising trade groups. “We hope that we can promote a culture and a society that’s making ads inclusive of our community,” Robinson said, adding he’d like agencies and corporations to use GLAAD as “a sounding board.”

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