Recently I came across an ad that looked surprisingly, well, gay. Suspicious--not of the ad itself, but of my possible misinterpretation of it--I dug a bit deeper. What I found, yet again surprisingly, was an entire movement of progressive ad campaigns.
The ad--a campaign for Banana Republic--features models who are coupled in real life, including couples of two men, clearly representing the homosexual population. And to my delight, Banana Republic is neither the only major brand to do this, nor is it the first. In fact, several companies have recently broken the heterosexual-only precedent. In 2011, J. Crew featured its designer, Somsack Sikhounuong with his boyfriend in an ad campaign, and in 2012, Ray-Ban, Gap, Target, and JC Penny all displayed ads with gay or lesbian couples. And recently, Barneys released an ad campaign called "Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters" featuring transgendered models and their support groups.
Refreshingly enough, the reason behind these ads was not to shock consumers, but to represent reality--the world we live in today. As stated by the chief creative officer for Banana republic, their goal was "to reflect our world and how we live in a true genuine way." And the CEO of Barneys fell along the same ideals, stating that it was the right time to feature an ad with transgenders because "the T in LGBT was getting left behind."
These type of ads, increasingly more common, reflect not only a shift in the consumer industry, but in the consumers themselves. These companies know the impact they have, the influence their ads will bring not only to themselves but to the cause for equality. The choice to include gay or lesbian couples in their ads is not arbitrary, but a calculated decision to support equal rights by showing equal representation. And as progressive companies continue to produce these ads, the normalcy of it is increased, encouraging more conservative companies to also champion equal rights. Yet, Banana Republic, Barneys, J. Crew--no matter the stance they wish to take, they still have to sell clothes. Clearly these ads do not only reflect the companies' support of equality, but consumer support as well. Generally, consumers today, particularly the younger demographic support marriage equality more fervently than any generation before.
Essentially, these ads are a double-edged sword--in a good way--not only promoting inclusion, but reflecting the public's cry for this inclusion. As more and more of these advertisements come out, more people are exposed to them, normalizing homosexuality, increasing acceptance, creating a larger platform of supporters and opening the door for other companies to support the cause for equality. These ads are a great thing, not only because of their promotion of inclusion and equal rights, but because of their reflection of consumers today.