News & Politics

Coke and Chevy step up with LGBTQ families in Olympics ads

If you’ve been watching the Olympics and paying attention to the commercials, you’ll have seen a few signs that is hasn’t just been President Obama, Billie Jean King, and LGBTQ activists transmitting messages  about LGBTQ people and families.  I wasn’t watching – got no cable, plus, unlike some of my more expansive-minded chums, I’m such a grouch about state-sponsored Russian anti-gay terrorism that I seem to be willing to take it out on hapless Olympic athletes. All the same, I was glad to see coverage of these corporate family diversity forays in the press.

For the rest of you who, like me, either weren’t watching or perhaps were and simply looked down to pick up the popcorn off the floor in the moments these ads appeared, here are the Chevy ads that ran during the opening ceremonies last Friday. In this first, I counted three same-sex headed families (at 11, 14, and 15 seconds in):

That’s alongside many interracial hetero couples as well. Makes you want to bust out a bowl of Cheerios in celebration.

In this longer ad, I picked out just one gay couple. But there they are, Lord love them, Black and jumping the broom at nine seconds in:

These ads convey the message many of us have been conveying for years at social media conferences and elsewhere: the American family is in truth far more diverse than we’ve seen in advertising, and tons of us will be very loyal and interested in companies who take steps to reflect that diversity in their visual images.

GLAAD President and CEO Kate Ellis applauds the move:

“Chevrolet has nailed it with ads that truly reflect the fabric of our nation, which today includes gay and lesbian families,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Recent LGBT-inclusive ads like these not only raise the bar for the advertising industry, but also reflect the growing support and acceptance of LGBT people. It’s about time my children were able to turn on the television and see families like their own represented in mainstream advertising.”

Coke, one of the top sponsors of the Olympics as well, released a much-discussed ad  during the Superbowl (another mega-corporate-sponsored sporting event I never watch, feminist couch potato that I am). This one included, alongside a racial and ethnic panorama of America, a family headed by an interracial male couple.  Watch for the two dads and fam skittering around on the ice at about the 45 second mark. GLAAD’s blog includes coverage of both the ad and a “behind the scenes” spot about it.

Of course the more ballistic the reactionaries get (and ballistic they get), the more certainly we know that the mass of us who are in or support ads like these outnumber those who feel threatened by them. As of this writing, the Coke ad has  been seen over ten million times already on YouTube. Over. Ten. Million.

Attention, in the Age of 24/7 White Noise we live in, is one of the most valuable commodities we all possess and can trade in. So now that we’re paying attention to them, what would we have these companies do? A group of human rights organizations have an idea. Ten days back, some 40 of them released a letter urging the leading corporate sponsors to speak out against  Russian anti-LGBT policy via the following specific actions:

  • Individually and/or collectively, condemn Russia’s anti-LGBT “propaganda” law, which clearly violates the Sixth Fundamental Principle of the Olympic Charter (“Any form of discrimination… is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement”);
  • Use their Olympics-related marketing and advertising – both domestically and internationally – to promote equality;
  • Ask the International Olympic Committee to create a body or other mechanism to prevent serious Olympics-related human rights abuses in host countries and to monitor those that do occur; and
  • Urge the IOC to ensure that future Olympic host countries comply with their commitment to uphold the Olympic Charter, including the principles of non-discrimination and media freedom.

Is there a way to both beat ’em and join ’em? Hard to say.  I’m never sure whether one can  effect change from within without being changed by being within, or without inadvertently promoting some random insidious things that within may be about. Still, I’m an advocate of change coming from all directions and at all speeds: inside/ out; fast/ slow. We need it all. And certainly the Chevy ads went a good ways toward addressing the second bullet point above. Whatever the case, I have to applaud these companies. There I was, ready to ignore their products and all the hard work of the athletes at the games.  Yet by making such a splash with their family diversity imagery, they made me look anyway.

But the real  medals in this competition for attention will have to be issued once the last of the journalists pack up and leave their notoriously substandard hotel rooms. Will we keep watching to see if Russia budges on its notoriously substandard human rights climate?

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