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A new reader poll from The Advocate on what type of advertising best reaches the gay and lesbian consumer found that 54% wanted ads "that address gay and lesbian themes."

Of 5,000 phone and Internet responses, another 33% chose, "It depends on how gay content is handled in the ad" and 13% said "Concentrate on the product, not the consumer."

"Based on focus group research we've been involved with, I'm not surprised by the results," said Howard Buford, president of Prime Access, a New York marketing agency that targets both African-Americans and gays and lesbians for AT&T Corp., American Express Co. and others.


A trickle of marketers-mostly those who've had lengthy experience in the market -have started to explore gay-specific creative, including Virgin Atlantic Airways, Miller Brewing Co.'s Miller Lite, Anheuser-Busch's Bud Light and Hiram Walker & Sons' Tuaca liqueur.

"You get a much better return on your advertising dollar" with gay-specific creative, said Dave Mulryan, president of Mulryan/Nash, New York, an ad agency that specializes in the gay and lesbian market. Still, "there is a cost issue associated with every niche market."

He said that for some global marketers, efficiencies could be found in exporting gay ads overseas to England and Australia.


A few advertisers moved into the gay and lesbian market with specific creative from the start, including Subaru of America and American Express.

AmEx is running a general-market campaign in gay magazines.

Some advertisers consult the gay publications for appropriateness of creative approaches before moving ahead with campaigns, but media say there isn't a clear direction to take.

"It depends on the brand and what you're trying to accomplish," said Joe Landry, Advocate advertising director. "Some marketers should concentrate more on the product." In the case of the American Express green card, "do you really need to have gay-specific creative?"


Harry Taylor, publisher of Out, said gay-specific creative "on the one hand shows an incredible commitment to the gay and lesbian consumer" but cites his magazine's readership as younger than The Advocate's and "for them, what's important is just putting the [product] in the medium."

Virgin Atlantic, after much discussion, launched subtle gay-specific ads in October 1995.

"We had long conversations about it-it's a fine line," said Taylor Tait, senior VP-general manager of Culver Moriarty Glavin, New York, Virgin's agency.

"The question Madison Avenue has to ask itself is, `What is it that the consumer identifies with in advertising?"' said Mr. Mulryan. "For gay people, it is to see themselves, which is still unusual at this stage of the game."

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