More Marketers Aiming Ads at LesbiansFARA WARNER , Associated Press
May. 19, 1995 9:41 AM ET
UNDATED The magazine advertisement for Tuaca liqueur seems pretty traditional at first glance: Three trendy young women gabbing over drinks.
Then you realize the women are flirting with one another.
Another advertising taboo is being shattered as Hiram Walker & Sons, the distributor of Tuaca, joins a small wave of national advertisers targeting the lesbian market.
``In the last two years, there's been a much broader discussion of lesbianism,'' says Richard Mukamal, vice president and group category director for Hiram Walker's liqueurs. ``Lesbianism has made its way into network television. It's part of a young, hip, urban demographic.''
The ``outing'' of the lesbian market is drawing big-name advertisers such as American Express, Stolichnaya vodka, Atlantic Records and Naya bottled water to such magazines as Deneuve, Lesbian News, Girlfriends and On Our Backs, which all have national distribution. In addition, Tanqueray vodka and Pierre Cardin have signed on to sponsor the television show ``Freestyles,'' hosted by Amanda Bearse, the openly lesbian actress from the ``Married ... With Children'' TV series, according to the marketing publication Next News. The paid program will run this summer on cable channel VH-1 with features that appeal to both gay women and gay men.
Most marketers use general ads that simply show their products, but a few marketers are being more direct with ads like Tuaca's and one for Atlantic Records showing two women holding hands at the beach.
For years, the lesbian market was overshadowed by the more vocal and more noticeable gay male audience, which a number of advertisers considered worth pursuing. Lesbians were stereotyped as less affluent than gay men and uninterested in traditional women's products such as cologne and cosmetics.
But now some marketers are taking another look, with brands like Unilever's Calvin Klein fragrances and Vivant skincare products considering advertising to the lesbian market. They are being swayed partly by new statistics breaking out lesbians from the overall gay population. Overlooked Opinions, a Chicago-based research firm that tracks the gay market, estimates that lesbians spend about $137 billion a year and have average household incomes of $42,755.
Beyond the numbers, lesbians have greater visibility, with lesbian relationships featured in television shows such as ``Friends'' and movies such as ``Bar Girls'' and ``The Incredibly True Adventure of 2 Girls in Love.'' Also, more women are joining celebrities such as k.d. lang, Melissa Etheridge and Martina Navratilova in openly expressing their lesbianism.
``The market, both gay and lesbian, is one of the most highly educated and fiercely loyal audiences we have,'' says Vicky Germaise, senior vice president of Atlantic Records, which runs ads in Out and Genre magazines promoting lesbian artists such as Melissa Ferrick.
In addition to media, such advertisers as Seagram and Hiram Walker also are trying to reach the lesbian market through special events such as the Dinah Shore Weekend, a gathering held every March in Palm Springs, Calif., that draws about 20,000 women. The event occurs at the same time as the Nabisco-Dinah Shore golf tournament, but isn't connected to the Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament.
Still, the lesbian market isn't an easy sell. ``We've gotten flat-out `no' from car companies even though their product definitely interests women,'' says Girlfriends Editor-in-Chief Heather Findlay.
The two-year-old Girlfriends encounters resistance partly because it runs a nude centerfold, sexually explicit advertising and stories like a recent feature on fringe lesbian lifestyles titled ``Holy Toledo! There's Perverts in Cleveland.''
``Old Playboy magazines had hardly any advertising because people were shocked,'' says Ms. Findlay, ``but it gained legitimacy.'' Ms. Findlay, the former editor of a more sexually explicit magazine, won't change the editorial content of Girlfriends to suit marketers. Consequently, in the most recent issue, many of the ads are from lesbian-specific marketers like Olivia Cruises and the San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.
The less-explicit Lesbian News, Deneuve and Out have been more successful in attracting advertisers like American Express and Seagram.
Hiram Walker has been one of the most aggressive marketers to lesbians so far. The small ad agency Jordan Hamilton decided to create separate Tuaca ads for lesbians, gay men and straight consumers. But Gunner Jordan, the agency's president, says he will run the Tuaca ads with flirting women in general magazines as well as lesbian publications.
``Gay people read straight books,'' says Mr. Jordan who also worked on gay-focused campaigns for Naya and Orion Classics films. ``It's gotten stale to open up a gay publication and see gay-specific advertising. But when you open up a straight publication and see it, that's another thing.''
American Express also sees benefit in tailoring ads to gay men and lesbians. One ad for its travelers checks that can be used by two people shows two women's names; another highlights two men's names.
But ``we're not doing anything special (creatively) for the lesbian market,'' says Arnie Arlow, executive vice president and creative director at Stolichnaya's ad agency, Margeotes Fertitta Donaher & Weiss in New York. ``The ads we run in lesbian publications are the same as the ones in Vogue because although they are women of a different persuasion, they're still women.''