CLOSE-UP: GLOBAL BRIEF; Is it time for ads to be outed?

Emma Hall reports on the issues facing advertisers who break social taboos

Emma Hall reports on the issues facing advertisers who break social

taboos



Laddish capers and macho posturing dominate advertising to men all over

the world - but try to break the mould and you come up against all sorts

of accusations.



Abercrombie and Fitch, a men’s clothing company, ran an eight-page ad in

the September issue of US Vanity Fair, starring Patrick and Anthony

Wayne, the son and grandson of Big John. The duo is shown cavorting on a

yacht in various intimate poses, which include hugging, bare chests and

fiddling with each other’s ear lobes.



Shahid and Co, the New York agency behind the ad, claims that the real-

life father and son are portrayed as icons of American clean living and

any resemblance to a gay couple is purely incidental.



Either the client and the agency are trying to pull the wool over our

eyes, or consumers are blinkered and old-fashioned when it comes to the

portrayal of men in ads.



Mitchell Fox, the publisher of Vanity Fair in the US, believes the

latter: ‘It is regretful that anyone can perceive any gay overtones in

the natural, open affection between father and son.’



On both sides of the Atlantic, ambiguous advertising can be a good way

to secure extra media coverage. The Guinness gay ad that caused such a

stir in the UK - despite never going on air - centred on the equivocal

relationship between two cohabiting men.



And the debate about whether, when two men’s lips met in Euro RSCG Wnek

Gosper’s Peugeot 406 ad, it was a gay kiss or the kiss of life,

generated more national press articles in the UK than any other

commercial this year.



The US is leading the way in gay-specific creative work, with recent

campaigns for big-name advertisers including Virgin Atlantic, Miller

Lite and Ikea. But is it still impossible to make an ad that appeals

innocently to both sides of the sexual divide?



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