PLAYING TO GAY SEGMENTS OPENS DOORS TO MARKETERS

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Get over it.

That's the message from those who understand segment marketing to advertisers still afraid to reach gay and lesbian consumers with targeted ad efforts.

"We are not just talking about TV. We are talking about direct marketing, point-of-purchase, outdoor, cable TV, telemarketing and computer bulletin boards services," says Grant Lukenbill, a marketing consultant who's writing a book about gay and lesbian consumer behavior, due out in January.

Mr. Lukenbill is a former sales development manager for The Advocate who also wrote and implemented the national marketing plan for OutWeek, which folded in 1991.

Reaching gay and lesbian consumers is ultimately a grass-roots movement, he says.

"The [Madison Ave. ad] agencies are not putting together big campaigns and helping you get into the gay and lesbian markets," he says. "Consumers and employee unions are doing that. Again, it is individuals."

One example of that is AT&T Corp.'s new direct marketing campaign promoting its long-distance services to gays and lesbians.

The mailer comes in a lavender envelope with a rainbow-colored telephone cord and the tag, "It's time for a change." It includes a letter signed by Arturo Nava and Margaret Burd, who co-chair Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay United Employees (League), and Jody Geiger, manager of AT&T Long Distance Service.

In addition, there is an insert titled "AT&T. A league of our own" that tells the story of how League developed into a company organization with more than 30 chapters.

Prime Access, New York, created the campaign.

John Mellor, AT&T spokesman, contends the giant company isn't worried about any backlash.

"Anyone who has that kind of attitude has to lose it, because this is an important market," he says.

Hiram Walker & Sons says it has generated a lot of goodwill with its marketing in the gay and lesbian market.

"I have never before in my life seen the response. I have a file of letters an inch or two thick from gay consumers thanking us and vowing their loyalty," says Julian Acosta, general manager-cultural markets for Hiram Walker. "A straight consumer wouldn't take the time and say thank you for validating us."

Mr. Acosta is responsible for the company's foray into the segment and says fear of backlash is irrational.

"We winked at the gay market with the Outrageous Tie Sweepstakes that ran last fall in Out. The prize was a $5,000 wardrobe donated by Gianni Versace, a fashion designer. We got an overwhelming response. It really connected with this particular consumer."

He says the general campaign, which offered a prize of $10,000, didn't receive the same type of response.

Marketers need to do their homework and understand the nuances of this market, Mr. Lukenbill says.

"Segmentation is the trend in the gay and lesbian markets. If you say gay market, you are making all the women invisible," he says.

Most experts expect big-name advertisers to straggle into the market one by one. But entry doesn't guarantee acceptance.

"The big thing in this market is being first," says Howard Buford of Prime Access. "People who come in second are seen as cowards by this market."

The result is that the whole market breaks by category; when one big player jumps in, competitors follow.

"Advertising in general in 1994 is defensive. If Dewar's is willing to court the gay and lesbian market, then all the others have to go into the market, too," says Dave Mulryan, a principal of Mulryan/Nash.

Mr. Mulryan points to the lifestyle-specific TV spot created by Deutsch, New York, for the Ikea retail furniture chain and adds, "If I were a furniture marketer, I'd be upset. How do I raise my brand awareness among this target? There's no secret you see more and more alcohol advertising as a defensive posture."

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