Gay couple featured in ad for San Francisco mayor

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A San Francisco gay and lesbian group is airing a TV spot believed to be a first in the political arena, or in any ad arena for that matter.

The Alice B. Toklas Lesbian & Gay Democratic Club and others have bought $150,000 worth of local broadcast time for a spot urging voters in the Dec. 14 mayoral runoff to cast their ballot for incumbent Willie Brown -- and against his gay opponent, Tom Ammiano.

A POLITICAL FIRST

Robert Barnes, a political consultant and the Democratic group's treasurer, said the spot is the first general-broadcast ad frankly depicting a gay couple at home. Although other political ads have spoken to gay voters, and some general-market ads have included depictions of same-sex relationships, most have been subtle. For example, one Volkswagen of America ad shows two "gay-vague" men collecting furniture.

But in the spot supporting Mr. Brown, "[a clearly gay couple] is obviously what they were representing," said Bob Gardner, president, Gardner, Geary, Coll & Young, San Francisco, who has been involved in political marketing. "If [openly gay advertising] was going to happen anywhere, it was going to happen here."

In the political spot, set in a living room, the couple discusses their choices for mayor. One says that he, of course, will vote for Mr. Ammiano. But the other cites Mr. Brown's support for gay causes, which Mr. Barnes noted started in the '70s with Mr. Brown's work in the California Legislature.

Mr. Barnes a poll found 45% of gays were voting for Mr. Ammiano, while 35% supported Mr. Brown. The remainder were undecided.

IRONIC TWIST

The spot was intended to encourage gays and others to support Mr. Brown. Mr. Barnes said his analysis found there were large numbers of white, straight liberals, primarily women, who were inclined to vote for Mr. Ammiano to show their support for gays.

"We wanted to tell them, you have permission not to vote for Tom Ammiano," said Mr. Barnes, who wrote and directed the spot.

He added that the traditional media targeting gays, direct mail, wouldn't have reached straight supporters of the gay movement.

About 20% to 25% of San Francisco's population is gay, but those numbers run as high as 30% 35% of total voters.

The race has featured an ironic twist. Mr. Brown, a liberal politician dubbed the "emperor" in a local political cartoon, found himself in a race with a challenge from the left, with Mr. Ammiano, called the "queen," making proposals such as one for an $11 an hour minimum wage.

Money for the spot was collected independently from Mr. Brown's re-election effort to avoid conflict with campaign financing laws.

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