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How Advertising Affects the Perception of the Gay Lifestyle
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Does the advertising world have a liberal, gay agenda? If it does, concludes researchers at the University of Miami, the gay population in America is all for it. According to research done in Coral Gables with assistant professor of advertising Wan-Hsiu Sunny Tsai, the advertising and media push has helped gays understand themselves and their influence in society.

The study is published by the Journal of Advertising in an article titled "How Minority Consumers use Targeted Advertising as Pathways to Self-Empowerment: Gay Men's and Lesbians' Reading of Out-of-the-Closet Advertising." Tsai and the researchers suggest that advertising has had a cultural impact on this group, and that advertising has not lost its "sociopolitical dimension." The study itself included 25 gay and lesbian participants with different races, ages, and professional backgrounds, and they observed 10–15 commercials made by mainstream advertisers that "exemplified dominant gay and lesbian portrayals." The press release did not go into further detail of what those portrayals were.

The findings from this research seem more qualitative than anything else. The announcement lists five specific strategies that they believe the advertising world uses to cater to this public. First is the perception that gay men have higher disposable incomes than most and they buy things in order to define them. Following that strategy, the second finding was that since they are a part of the mass economy, this meant that they were accepted in mainstream society.

The third finding was interesting; it stated that targeted advertising was a crucial step towards social political inclusion. In this society, once you're taken seriously as a consumer, political influence is soon to follow. The fourth theme was that gays would tolerate the stereotypes of the "effeminate man" and the "sexualized femme" if it meant social inclusion. That one is a little difficult to believe. No one likes to be characterized in a wrong manner, whether they are included or not. Not all African-Americans can "talk street," so pluralizing the gay stereotypes shouldn't be accepted as well. What we can see from this is that maybe that they'll accept the stereotype as long as they are being treated better.

The last finding is similar to the previous one in that the participants were willing to give up an element of their identity in order to be accepted as a whole in society.

The details are at least tantalizing enough to read the entire article to get more details. The research seems a little over-reaching, and tries to attribute an entire paradigm shift to advertising. Don't get it wrong; it would be awesome if advertising was a major factor, but it is easier to believe that advertising was certainly an influencer, not a driving force. Advertising is a snapshot of what society views to be valuable, needed, and wanted, and if this research proves anything, it shows that the gay population will continue to grow as an influencer.


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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