Magazine article ADWEEK

Marrying Advertisers to the LGBT Market Drives Witeck-Combs

Magazine article ADWEEK

Marrying Advertisers to the LGBT Market Drives Witeck-Combs

Article excerpt

Bob Witeck's career is a tale of two realities.

After graduating from the University of Virginia, Witeck unexpectedly followed in his father's footsteps, working on Capitol Hill as a legislative assistant. His father, John, had worked as a staff member on the Senate Appropriations Committee under Sen. Carl Hayden (D., Ariz.). "It's something you wouldn't want to do after your dad did it," Witeck says. "You'd do anything but that if you could."

But fortunately, an education in a separate reality provided a perspective, and eventually, motivation to move in another direction, away from the Capitol Hill wars.

During his tenure on Capitol Hill, Witeck worked as a press secretary and communications director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, serving on the staff of Sen. Charles Packwood (D., Ore.), who sponsored the first gay civil rights bill in 1979.

It wasn't a comfortable environment for a gay man--there was only one openly gay Senate staffer when Witeck started working in Washington but he eventually came out to close associates on the Hill.

And he ultimately shifted into another alternative reality in the advertising business, becoming a senior vice president for Hill & Knowlton.

It was the beginning of a quantum shift that prefigured his creation of Witeck-Combs Communications with business partner Wes Combs in 1993. "Change happens in the real world so much faster," Witeck says of the difference between politics and the reality of a business marketplace, "If enough people want something in the American marketplace, they can achieve it," implying what many assume to be true about the way in which things get done--or not--in the political arena.

Witeck met business partner Wes Combs, in marketing at IBM at the time, while the two were doing volunteer work with the Human Rights Council. They realized their mutual devotion to gay issues, and an enduring partnership took root.

Witeck and Combs have spent the intervening 12 years pitching the presence of the gay and lesbian market to advertisers, and consulting with companies on gay and lesbian issues. "Our passions were supporting gay civil rights causes and issues that we cared about," says Witeck.

The firm's first client was American Airlines, which was just beginning to realize that there was a sizeable U. …

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