June 2020 (Vol. 60, Issue 2): GENDER AND DIVERSITY
Does Depicting Gay Couples in Ads Influence Behavioral Intentions? How Appeal for Ads with Gay Models Can Drive Intentions to Purchase and Recommend
Despite a growing trend of ads depicting lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) relationships, research in this domain is still in its infancy. “Much of the marketing literature on LGB-inclusive advertising focuses on how to target the LGB market segment without alienating heterosexual consumers,” Bradley J. Bond and Justine Rapp Farrell (both at University of San Diego) note in this article. Studies have shown that “heterosexual consumers generally dislike LGB-inclusive ads and that LGB consumers respond favorably.” Research also shows how LGB-inclusive ads affect the behavioral intentions of both consumer groups.
Bond and Rapp Farrell went a step further in examining the reactions of heterosexual and LBG consumers to ads containing heterosexual and LGB imagery, using distinctiveness theory as their basis. “Distinctiveness theory predicts that individuals respond particularly favorably to advertisements that feature their distinctive traits, defined as traits that place individuals in unique or niche segments of larger populations (McGuire, 1985),” the authors write. “Such a prediction is based on the assumption that individuals are mindful and aware of the attributes that make them distinctive” (e.g. Hispanic individuals living in a white-majority city respond significantly more favorably to Hispanic models in ads than do Hispanic individuals living in a Hispanic-dominant city). LGB identities can be considered distinctive traits, distinguishing them from the heterosexual majority.
Reactions to the ads shown in this study were such that those who saw the images as congruent with their own sexual identity more likely would both purchase the goods involved and recommend them to others. As the LGB community has been growing in size and in purchasing power, these findings suggest that the use of LGB imagery will enhance the success of these ads, and the advertisers would be wise to “include an increased emphasis on product offerings most utilized by LGB consumers or placement within media outlets popular with LGB audiences.”
Other implications include:
- Heterosexual consumers no longer may experience the same aversion to LGB-inclusive ads that consistently was found in previous studies.
- Heterosexual consumers place more weight on the ad being “interesting, trustworthy and a good match with the brand than on the sexuality of the models” depicted within the ad.
- Recognition as a corporate ally provides a significant benefit toward building relationships with LGB customers.