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