Business, Not Politics: The Making of the Gay Market

Business, Not Politics: The Making of the Gay Market

Business, Not Politics: The Making of the Gay Market

Business, Not Politics: The Making of the Gay Market

Synopsis

In a hard-hitting book that refutes conventional wisdom, Katherine Sender explores the connection between the business of marketing to gay consumers and the politics of gay rights and identity. She disputes some marketers'claims that marketing appeals to gay and lesbian consumers are a matter of "business, not politics" and that the business of gay marketing can be considered independently of the politics of gay rights, identity, and visibility. She contends that the gay community is not a preexisting entity that marketers simply tap into; rather it is a construction, an imagined community formed not only through political activism but also through a commercially supported media. She argues that marketing has not only been formative in the constitution of a GLBT community and identity but also has had significant impact on the visibility of gays and lesbians.

Excerpt

Since the early 1990s, the United States has seen a rapid increase in the visibility of a new consumer niche: the gay market. a growing number of national corporations, including Subaru cars, Tanqueray gin, Abercrombie & Fitch menswear, and American Express Financial Advisors, court readers of the gay press, and commercials from the travel Web site Orbitz, and insurance company John Hancock, feature gay and lesbian couples on prime-time television. Within a year of its debut, Out magazine—a stylish lifestyle publication for lesbians, gays, and bisexuals—received $271,000 in advertising revenue for a single issue (December 1993), and in the early 1990s gay-owned advertising agencies such as Prime Access and Mulryan/Nash produced campaigns for AT&T’s long-distance service and Alizé liqueur, respectively. in the spring of 2000, the Advocate’s publishing company, Liberation Publications, Inc., bought its main competitor for gay readers—Out—and then proposed (though later withdrew from) a merger with PlanetOut, an online service for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Internet users. in January 2002, Viacom subsidiaries mtv and Showtime considered the viability of a gay cable channel, and Bravo, owned by nbc, produced the hit makeover show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in 2003. Collectively, these initiatives suggest that gays and lesbians are now considered a sufficiently large and profitable group to warrant marketers’ attention, and signal a mature phase of the gay market.

Advocates and critics have looked at the boom in gay marketing with both excitement and trepidation, speculating about its cultural significance. Yet whatever these marketing efforts may portend for the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people, corporate representatives and media executives have been careful to circumscribe these developments within a dis-

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