Adland And The Great Gay Cliché

Adland And The Great Gay Cliché

Following on from yesterday’s B&T article on why we don’t see more gay and lesbian people in media and advertising – despite overwhelming support for same-sex marriage – comes claims that even when we do, gay people are often portrayed with heterosexual stereotypes.

It’s often the catty queen, the muscle boy, the camp hairdresser or the butch lesbian.

The problem, argues psychologist Adam Ferrier, is that Adland portrays everybody in a clichéd way.

“Potentially the reason why mass media portrays homosexuals in clichéd ways is because mass media portrays everybody in clichéd ways and the reason why is that you have limited time (in ads) to be give very clear indicators and clear communications and that often means using clichés and clichéd characters,” said Ferrier who is also the global strategy officer at Cummins&Partners.

“Advertising and media in general uses clichés, it’s just a more effective communication device, you can get the concept across much easier. But yes, the by-product of that is it feels like you’re creating quite hammy communications; but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone,” Ferrier said.

BMF’s managing director, Steve McArdle, agrees that agencies can often fall into caricatures when representing anyone, not just gays and lesbians.

“You need to get the message across quickly and often advertisers do use caricatures to get there,” McArdle told B&T. “Whether it’s a caricature of a gay guy or a caricature of a sort of stupid, comedy clown character or a whingey person; they just go to the extreme to make the point.

“Are gay people shown in media with subtlety and nuance? Probably not. And if you are going to go into that world, you don’t want to be doing that, because that’s when you will get gay people saying, ‘Well that doesn’t represent us’ and that’s where the damage starts. Agencies would have to tread very carefully if they are going to go down that path, in all truth.”

While branding expert, Tongue’s Jonathan Pease, warns brands from simply jumping straight on the same-sex marriage bandwagon.

“When it comes to brands you have to do what is authentic to your brand. Is it authentic to your brand to support same sex marriage? Then yes, you should do it. But it becomes dangerous when brands who didn’t really have an opinion in the first place all of a sudden start having one for no apparent reason. You can’t just hitch a brand to the next cause that comes along and expect you’re on a winner

“Brands jumping on any bandwagon is ill-advised because it comes ascross as not authentic; but if they believe in it, if the executive believes in it, if it matches their brand then they should act accordingly. But my question would be why didn’t brands get on this six months ago, a year ago, five years ago?” Pease argued.

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