OPINION: Mills on ... Queercompany

Keen followers of the Queercompany saga will know that this is a dotcom story with a few twists and turns.

Keen followers of the Queercompany saga will know that this is a dotcom story with a few twists and turns.

Last week we had the accusation by Queercompany that the Daily Mail is censoring its ads. The Mail, meanwhile, denies this - indeed, on the day the row was at its scrappiest, it ran one of the ads. The Mail also suggests that Queercompany wanted the Mail to ban its ads in order to milk the publicity that would surely ensue. 'Your reporter's been turned over by Queercompany,' the man from the Mail said, darkly - an unfortunate turn of phrase.

However, I have some sympathy with this view. I find it hard to believe that, if you're targeting the gay community, there's any point in using the Mail, the last bulwark in the fight against moral turpitude and self-appointed defender of the faith. NRS figures (shame) don't show it, but I'd guess the Mail has as high a proportion of gay readers as it does social workers.

But let us not get distracted by a storm in a teacup. Queercompany, you may recall, famously fired St Luke's earlier this autumn because, in the words of its chief operating officer, Wanda Goldwag: 'It could only produce gay advertising and we wanted queer advertising.' I puzzled long and hard over this at the time, eventually concluding that St Luke's was producing a straight view of gays, while Queercompany wanted something edgier, something that might deliberately disturb or alienate heterosexuals. I based this on the view that the word 'gay' was a safe word, whereas the term 'queer' was more political and aggressive.

But what do I know? Apparently, gay equals the sleaze ghetto, whereas queer is more all-encompassing. In fact, Queercompany wanted ads that were more about attitude than sexuality. Meanwhile, St Luke's produced ads such as the one with a man blowing up a lilo, only shot to look as though he was blowing something else - bringing to mind George Michael and the infamous Will Rogers Memorial Park toilet incident.

So out went St Luke's and in came Anti-Corp. The result is a series that is quite beguiling and as far removed from the tackiness one associates with gay advertising as I've seen. Take the one shown here. The woman is sleek and attractive. She probably lives in Surrey and has a high-powered job in a City law firm. At first glance it's a mobile phone or financial services ad. Then you notice the copy. Not only is she gay, she's a mum!

Double whammy. Another ad features two bare-chested men hugging and the line: 'I'm queer. And by the way, that is not an apology.' It's upfront but has a certain tenderness.

I like the ads. They grow on you. They're quite subtle. They take a preconception and turn it on its head. The strategy is quite straightforward: queers are defined as much by a state of mind and an attitude as by their sexuality.

More to the point, you almost forget that they're ads for a dotcom - no mean achievement. And, yes, I did go and look at the website which, of course, is the only thing that matters since that is where eyeballs are turned into ad revenue and gay-market products into e-commerce revenue.

Tasteful as they are, however, the ads strike me as a bit tame. Gay Lite, you might say, diluting the proposition to make it acceptable. Prejudice against queers is one thing. However, there's an even more corrosive prejudice Queercompany has to overcome: business-to-consumer dotcoms.

Dead cert for a pencil? These ads aren't in that league.

Will they work? They'll drive traffic - but I question the site's business premise.

What would the chairman's wife say? I expect he loves them.


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