A ruggedly handsome man emerges from under the hood of a car, rubbing his grimy hands on white cloth. Leaning against the dark sedan, another man, young and athletic looking, gifts the mechanic a neat new watch. His reward? The man leans in and the two share a kiss. Some kind of underground gay romantic comedy? No, it's a recent TV commercial for Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana, and it's part of a growing trend in European advertising toward ad campaigns that better represent consumers' diversity. And if those consumers are gay, so much the better for advertisers, who have found a way to tap into a disproportionately affluent slice of the market.
Consider: Britain's gays accounting for around 6% of the population, or about 3.6 million pocket an estimated $130 billion annually, according to a recent survey. Openly gay men in full-time jobs earn $18,000 a year more than the male national average; among lesbians, the premium is $12,000. (It's a similar story in France, too.) Hence, for advertisers whether dreaming up mainstream publicity fit for a gay audience, or appealing directly via gay media it's cool to think pink.
"This is an important market [with] good levels of disposable income," says a spokesman for British Airways, whose ads like the one marking its commitment to EuroPride '06 appear in gay media both in print and online. That publicity has delivered the airline "good success in terms of driving revenues," he adds. "And that will continue."
Commercial Closet Association, a New York City-based group that counsels firms on smarter representation of gays in advertising, logged 436 gay-themed ads in global gay and mainstream media last year around a fifth of which appeared in Europe versus around 350 in 2003. "What might seem a very brave step to make isn't that brave, really," says Jon Howard, strategy director of London ad agency Quiet Storm. He suggests gays are on average "more affluent, more interested in style and brands, and travel more" than their straight counterparts.
Moreover, some research indicates that merely delivering a gay-tailored message is enough to create a long-term relationship. According to the Outright 2006 survey, more than one-third of British gays and lesbians claim that tailored advertising in gay media will foster their loyalty to a brand regardless of the quality relative to other brands. Gay consumers react kindly to companies "speaking to a part of their identity that is usually ignored," suggests David Muniz, commercial director at QSoft Consulting, which operates a string of gay media sites online.