An Ad in Which Boy Gets Girl ... or Boy

Levi's Targets Gay, Straight Consumers With Alt Endings

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Marketers have on occasion created different versions of the same ad targeted toward different audiences -- Sony's Bravia TV being billed as the first TV campaign with spots for men and women earlier this year comes to mind. But even less frequent are those ads geared toward gay and straight audiences. Enter Levi's.
Photo: AP

Levi's ad looks different on MTV's gay network Logo.

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VIDEO: Levi's Innovative Gay Marketing Move
Gay and Straight Versions of Same TV Commercial Produced

A spot from the jeans maker features a young, attractive male in his second-floor apartment slipping on his Levi's. The motion of yanking up his pants inexplicably causes the street below his apartment to get pulled up as well, crashing through his floor and bringing with it an equally attractive female in a telephone booth. In the end, the guy gets the girl. But if you watch the ad on Logo, MTV's gay cable network in more than 27 million homes, the same guy with the magic jeans is greeted by a fetching blond gentleman, and the two of them run off together in the same manner as their heterosexual counterparts.

While it's not the first time a marketer has pulled a two-for-one for the gay audience -- Orbitz executed a similar feat in 2003 for a pair of ads with marionettes -- the Levi's campaign represents what Logo President Brian Graden said is a first in his network's three-year history. The spots made their debuts on Logo two weeks ago, and will roll out on other lifestyle cable networks later in the season.

Reaching gay community
Having seen previous success with Levi's and its agency Bartle, Bogle & Hegarty last year when the denim outfitter truncated its "Straight Walk" ad for the network, Mr. Graden met with Robert Cameron, the brand's VP-marketing, to see how they could expand their creative relationship in reaching the gay community.

"Levi's has always been a very progressive company in this area with their own team; they're coming from a very credible place," said Mr. Graden, a 10-year MTV vet who also serves as president of the MTV Networks Entertainment group. "We think [speaking to the gay audience specifically] is a smart way for marketers to go. We have research that shows our audience has a much greater affinity for advertisers on Logo that have made a conscious decision to reach them."

Mr. Cameron admits the idea for the dual ads emerged from a tight budget, but later the concept took on greater meaning. "At first it made us parse the thought of, what does that say? We're not spending as much money as we ought to do a dedicated commercial for the gay market. But [then] we thought, if we're going to do an ad for them, they deserve the same production values. ... So doing the same commercial with different endings seemed to us to be a message about absolute equality."

Whom the boy ends up with may depend upon which channel you're tuned into.

Not expensive
Randy Susan Wagner, chief marketing officer of Orbitz, agrees creative equality doesn't come with a price tag. "You don't need a huge budget to do this; all you need is insight," Ms. Wagner said. Orbitz has filmed multiple versions campaigns such as "Game Show" and "Step-Ahead" in the same to save costs and cater to both communities.

Ms. Wagner also cited a recent Harris Interactive study in which 69% of all gay and lesbian consumers said they're more likely to buy directly from marketers that have a nondiscrimination policy. "It's a win-win. In this case, you get repaid very well, because both gay and lesbian consumers are very loyal to the companies that connect to them."

Gay media took in $276 million in 2006, according to the Gay Press Report, an annual survey conducted Rivendell Marketing and Prime Access. Ads for magazines such as Out and The Advocate comprised a vast majority of ad spend, with $223.3 million in 2006, up 5.2%. Online spending was $27 million while Logo took an estimated $20 million. According to the Gay Press Report, more than 183 Fortune 500 brands were actively spending on the gay market as of 2006, an increase from 150 in 2004.
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