In Broad Daylight

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Marketers who want to target homosexuals may have better luck using mass media than gay-specific venues.

Marketing to the gay community no longer means targeting gay bars and bookstores. Increasingly, it means placing ads in media that reach the masses.

But while most companies expect some heterosexuals to dislike their gay-oriented ads, they may be surprised to learn that they could also be offending a portion of their target group.

Gays and lesbians have long known that with their traditionally higher levels of education and disposable income they are a highly coveted and valuable market. But many also feel that they've been represented inaccurately and even treated condescendingly by the media, according to a study from the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver.

The study, "Gays: Feelings about Advertising and Media Used," finds that homosexuals dislike and distrust advertising messages significantly more than heterosexuals. "Much of the dislike apparently is based on the fact that advertising in general has done such a poor job relating to [the gay community]," says the study's author, John Burnett, professor of marketing at the University of Denver.

As a result, gays and lesbians often feel that companies that reach out to the homosexual community are doing so solely for financial gain - not to support and further the advancement of homosexuals in society, says Paul Poux, founder of Poux Company, a New York-based advertising agency that targets homosexuals.

In advising clients how best to connect with the homosexual community, Poux says that companies need to advertise consistently to this group to show that the business community understands its needs. Those companies that place gay-targeted ads in mainstream media will likely find a very receptive audience. "[Homosexuals] feel very strongly that people who aren't gay could use more education about gay people," says Poux.

Subaru is one company that has recently "come out" in its courtship of the lesbian consumer. Ads for the Subaru Forester and Subaru Outback that read, "It's Not a Choice. It's the Way We're Built," first appeared on the streets of eight U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Dallas, and Portland, last April in time for the Millennium March on Washington, a gay rights event.

Burnett's study found that gays and lesbians prefer certain mass media over others. For example, homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to read the news, business, and travel sections of the paper. But, they are less likely to read the advertising supplement. When it comes to magazines, it's no surprise that gay titles like Genre, The Advocate, and Outweek are more popular among homosexuals. But gays are also more likely than the average heterosexual to pick up a copy of National Geographic, Fortune, and even Sports Illustrated. For marketers looking for a new niche: It's time to play ball.

For more information on "Gays: Feelings about Advertising and Media Used," call John Burnett at (303) 871-2168.

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