Ikea Wins Gay Ad Award, But The Field Is Shrinking

Ikea--a retailer that yanked a gay TV ad in 1994 after it generated bomb threats to its stores--is the big winner in the 3rd Annual Images in Advertising Awards from Commercial Closet Association (CCA), a non-profit that educates the ad industry on reaching gays and lesbians.

Called "Living Room," the spot features a number of families, including a happy African-American and Asian-American male couple with their daughter on their living room floor, as the voiceover asks: "Why shouldn't sofas come in flavors, just like families?"

"In 1994, Ikea was very much ahead of its time," says Michael Wilke, CCA's executive director. "The big story today is that's all ancient history, and their new commercial generated little to no press. It's nice to see Ikea back in the game."

But overall, Wilke says, the number of gay, lesbian or transgendered characters are down this year in advertising, and this year saw fewer nominees for "Outstanding Commercial" than in previous years. Also this year, CCA chose not to select an Ad Agency of the Year or Turnaround Mainstream Advertiser, due to a lack of worthy candidates.

Wilke believes that decrease in potential nominees reflects the general media, which have also seen a decline in gay and lesbian characters in the post-"Will & Grace" era.

"There is no longer a novelty value of including a gay story line," he says. "It reached a saturation point, and now advertising is doing the same thing. That's why we want to draw attention to the Ikea ad as an outstanding example," Wilke says. "Moving forward, I think more commercials will reference the message of diversity and inclusion, rather than a simple punch line. We're at a transition, where some companies get it and other companies need to get it."

Other winners include Time magazine, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Subaru of America, Nokia and Lufthansa.

The group also gave its version of a raspberry, called the "Clean Up Your Act Notice," to DaimlerChrysler for a spot in which a female fairy gets mowed down by a Dodge Caliber, making a burly male laugh. For spite, she turns him into a pastel-wearing man walking four Pomeranians on pink leashes.

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