Date of this Version
In mainstream and gay media gay consumers are becoming big business. Within the last year, Queer as Folk, Showtime's serialized version of gay life, showed bad boy Brian helping a homophobic businessman turn a failing product around by marketing to gay consumers; Miller Lite brought us a television commercial showing two handsome gay men; Procter & Gamble placed ads in gay and lesbian publications; and Showtime and MTV announced they were developing the first, partly ad-supported, gay cable channel. This growing media and marketing attention to lesbians and gays has been consistently framed by marketers as a matter of "business, not politics": as a spokesperson from Naya said in 1993, "This is not a political decision to go after the gay niche. It was a business decision." Yet to see these developments as a spontaneous blossoming of the gay market in an age of corporate liberalism effaces the efforts of largely gay- and lesbian-identified marketers to research, package, and sell gay consumers to national corporations since the early 1970s. This paper investigates how marketers have actively produced the gay market, and how this process in turn circulates a narrow version of gay visibility. What assumptions do marketers hold about gay and lesbian consumers? What negative stereotypes must marketers counteract, and what positive ones do they put in their place? How do marketers define their roles not just as businesspeople, but as experts, educators, and progressives? In what ways do marketers privilege business over politics, and how does this shape the gay market? In response to the Miller spokeswoman quoted above, marketing to gays and lesbians does get a great deal more complicated than merely selling a product to consumers.
Date Posted: 02 May 2008