With most periods dedicated to minorities—like Black History Month (February), Women’s History Month (March), Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (May)—marketers can release ads celebrating each group, but with Gay Pride Month (June), things are a bit different.
That’s because there isn’t universal acceptance of gay rights. A recent Gallup poll showed 70% of Americans support same-sex marriage. That’s a historic high and up from just 27% in 1997, but a brand supporting gay rights is apt to get some criticism.
For instance, in April, Oreo released a short film about coming out. Predictably, the film got both praise and condemnation from critics. Most notably, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro vowed to boycott “gay cookies” after Oreo released the film.
Newsmax host Greg Kelly blasted Oreo on Twitter for bringing sexual orientation into the discussion.
Ikea is credited with running the first ad that supported the gay lifestyle. That ad, which featured a gay couple shopping at Ikea, ran in three markets and led to calls for boycotts of Ikea. Eventually, other brands, including Honey Maid, DirecTV and Cheerios, followed suit.
That was far from the end of it. As the opposition to the Oreo ad shows, gay Americans are a different kind of minority, one which provokes ire in about a third of the population. In the past six months or so, here are some of other backlashes that brands supporting gay rights have received:
Sephora: When Sephora included a gay couple in its 2021 holiday ad, it evoked the opposition of One Million Moms, which urged its followers to “take action” against the brand.
eHarmony: eHarmony’s ad in Australia featuring a gay couple, also evoked the opposition of One Million Moms. Supporters of the ad dismissed One Million Moms as a “fringe group.”
Doritos: In Israel, a Doritos ad featuring a gay couple brought on a boycott from conservative religious Israeli Jews.
Kay Jewelers: One Million Moms targeted Kay Jewelers for featuring a gay couple in an ad.
Over time, such instances may become rarer as the public reacts to the sensitivities of the market, but for now, it looks like referencing gays in marketing will always be a somewhat risky strategy.