NEW YORK — Diet Pepsi’s Super Bowl TV commercial, spotlighting guy-watchers Carson Kressley and Cindy Crawford, took top honors for outstanding commercial at the 2006 Images in Advertising Awards Tuesday, which recognizes ads believed to best reflect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender consumers.
The commercial, which shows a buff man in a T-shirt and jeans strutting down the street — turning the heads of Crawford and, at the end of the spot, Kressley — was only Pepsi’s second gay-targeted marketing effort and was seen as signaling a more accepting climate for such efforts when it aired during last year’s Super Bowl. (Pepsi’s first was a print ad in the June 2004 issue of Out.)
Nevertheless, the atmosphere has proved cooler than some expected. Michael Wilke, executive director of the Commercial Closet, which staged the second annual Images in Advertising Awards, said in an interview, “I haven’t seen a large number of new entrants in the gay advertising market.” Wilke added that a “politically conservative climate” is probably a key reason for the dearth of marketers willing to begin targeting GLBT consumers.
“There’s a take-it-slow-and-cautiously attitude” among advertisers regarding gay marketing, said Stephanie Blackwood, a board member of Commercial Closet and account director at marketing agency Double Platinum. “I have witnessed a chilling in our company.”
At the same time, Wilke noted, “what has continued is the use of openly gay celebrities in mainstream advertising — Kyan Douglas for L’Oréal, Ellen DeGeneres for American Express and Melissa Etheridge for Tiffany,” in addition to Kressley for Diet Pepsi. And at least one gay media outlet, MTV Networks’ Logo TV, which turns one year old next month, has seen its roster of advertisers increase significantly, to 53 from 30 in September, said Tom Watson, Logo’s vice president of advertising sales.
Four fashion brands, the same number as last year, were nominated for Images in Advertising Awards across two categories, but none won: Diesel, Gucci and Polo Jeans, for outstanding print/outdoor, mainstream, and Dolce & Gabbana for outstanding international commercial.
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) won for outstanding print/outdoor, mainstream, with its 2005 U.S. print/outdoor campaign, “Stay Close,” which featured straight celebrities such as Ben Affleck with his cousin, Jason, and Cyndi Lauper with her sister, Elen, while best international honors went to a 2005 North American Toyota Corolla TV spot, which pictured women partners kissing after one of them received a show of appreciation from her partner’s father.
Dolce’s spot, which aired in England this year and last year and portrayed a casual kiss between two men, was originally accorded a positive rating by the Commercial Closet on its watchdog Web site. Diesel’s 2005 North American print ad, initially rated “neutral,” features the bare leg and foot of one woman poised atop the booted foot of another woman, who, in turn, is standing on the sneaker-bearing foot of a figure who appears to be a male. Gucci’s 2005 U.S. print campaign, also rated “neutral” by Commercial Closet, featured portrayals of two men and a women lounging in bed. Chris Beckman, an openly gay member of the Chicago cast of “The Real World” on MTV, is the subject of a 2005, North American Polo Jeans print ad, originally rated “neutral,” which addresses the value of volunteering for a cause.