Two papers in the current issue of the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR) explore consumer reactions to ads with depictions of gay couples. But they come to different conclusions. Comparing the ad creative explains why.
The June 2020 issue of the JAR is focused on “Gender and Diversity” and contains two papers on LGBTQ images in print ads. Bradley Bond and Justine Farrell (University of San Diego) ask, “Does Depicting Gay Couples in Ads Influence Behavioral Intentions?” The other paper, by Gavin Northey et al. (researchers in Australia and New Zealand), is entitled, “LGBTQ Imagery in Advertising.”
- Not surprisingly, both studies found favorable reactions to the ads among most gay consumers. The first study also reported mostly favorable reactions among heterosexual consumers, as long as they found the ads interesting and relevant. In other words, the presence of gay people in the ads appeared to be secondary – which the authors see as a noteworthy, new development that reflects cultural shifts in attitudes towards gays in the US.
- In contrast, the second study found political ideology to be a strong influencer on reactions to the ads. The researchers identified “disgust” among conservatives, especially to images with two males, as a driver of negative reactions.
We think that a comparison of the creative used in the two studies explains why the studies came to different conclusions. The first study used ads (by Target, Tiffany, and the Gap) of couples looking at each other, wearing nice clothes. The second study created ads (for a watch and spring water) that included depictions of almost naked couples in very close contact.
- The data suggest that depicting gay couples as consumers in love is likely to result in positive reactions; sexual depictions of gay couples, however, is risky.
Bond, B. and Farrell, J. (2020, June 1). Does Depicting Gay Couples in Ads Influence Behavioral Intentions? The Journal of Advertising Research
Northey, et al. (2020, June 1). LGBTQ Imagery in Advertising:How Viewers' Political Ideology Shapes Their Emotional Response to Gender And Sexuality in Advertisements. The Journal of Advertising Research
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