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Coming out of the Closet

Exploring LGBT Issues in Strategic Communication with Theory and Research

Natalie T.J. Tindall and Richard D. Waters

Despite representing significant portions of the advertising, marketing, and public relations work force, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community has largely been ignored by scholarly research in strategic communications. With the exception of case studies that document strategies that can be used to secure the LGBT consumer dollar, little has been done to understand the LGBT community’s experiences with strategic communications efforts. This edited volume fills this gap by sharing research on the impact and interaction of campaigns and programming from advertising, marketing, and public relations on internal (e.g., practitioners and employees) and external (e.g., consumers, activists) stakeholders from the LGBT community. Several chapters in this volume highlight a significant change in the focus of strategic communications that recognizes the long-term benefits of having legitimate partnerships; others, however, counter this optimistic trend by discussing the continued struggles of practitioners working in strategic communication and the LGBT community at large.
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Chapter 12: Politicizing Gay Advertising: A Consumer Response Study


Wan-Hsiu Sunny Tsai

Advertising is one of the most powerful representational systems in contemporary culture. Advertising messages and images help us gauge who we are and how we are doing in relation to the world. Thus, having one’s community represented in mainstream advertising can exert a critical influence on consumers’ self-identities. This effect may be especially profound among minority consumers who strive for acceptance and validation in the politics-laden consumer market.

This chapter focuses on gay-oriented advertising as a dominant discourse in informing gay identities. Gay-oriented mainstream commercials are defined as ads created by national advertisers and aired on mainstream television channels, rather than those presented in gay media or produced by gay rights organizations or gay-owned businesses. In the dominant advertising and marketing discourse, the gay consumer segment is often discussed through the language of lifestyles, rather than through other aspects of gay identity, such as the gay community’s social position as a disenfranchised group. However, Peñaloza (1996) pointed out that

as members of a social movement, gays and lesbians have developed a consciousness of themselves as a people as the result of a history of common interests and experiences, particularly their exclusion, mobilization, and struggle in response to how they have been treated by others. This consciousness is…part of the foundation for the gay/lesbian market segment. (p. 22)

Paradoxically, the marginalized status of gay and lesbian consumers and the political tension surrounding the gay marketing phenomenon can be...

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