In 2007, Levi's were among several brands, such as Absolut, advertising to the LGBT community. But unlike what we've seen this past year - these ads represented a more sexualized gay culture and often only in appeared in gay-themed media outlets. In Levi's case, the brand created a gay version of their jeans ad that primarily appeared on Logo.
A few years later, the K-Y Brand was recognized by the Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Advertising for the print ad featuring Geoffrey and Rusty. The spot appeared in an issue of Entertainment Weekly after the couple won a Facebook contest sponsored by K-Y.
In 2011, J.Crew quietly rolled out its May 2011 catalog, which featured employees as models including designer Somsack pictured with his boyfriend, Micah. It came as a welcome surprise for the fashion brand and was generally well-received.
This year has seen several gay couples (most of them real) appear in advertisements from major brands, including Gap, JC Penney and Ray-Ban.
Ray-Ban took a more stylish approach to their ad campaign, featuring a gay couple holding hands in 1942 with the tagline, "never hide." Other spots include a couple dirty-dancing and a white rapper in a emcee battle. The company declined to comment about whether the couple was in fact real or not. However, it's clear that the image is part of a larger stylized fashion shoot especially when compared to those of J.C. Penney.
JC Penney has garnered most of the attention, first for choosing Ellen DeGeneres (who is marred to Portia de Rossi) as the company's spokesperson and then later for releasing a catalog ahead of Mother's Day. The catalog featured Wendi and Maggie (both appeared to be wearing wedding bands) with their two daughters.
The company repeated the trick ahead of Father's Day. This time, the couple featured was Todd Koch and Cooper Smith. The couple's decision to adopt their two children (also pictured) was chronicled by the Dallas Voice in 2009.
Additionally, Gap featured Rory O’Malley, the Tony-nominated star of The Book of Mormon, and his boyfriend Gerold Schroeder in the "Be Your Own T" campaign. First spotted in Los Angeles, the billboard is among many ads that highlight people with different personalities, heritages and styles with captions, such as “be now,” “be hungry” and “be one.”
What's most important about the ads is how they appear. All the brands included the "gay ads" as one part of a kaleidoscope those companies think represents modern American culture.
“As jcpenney focuses on becoming America’s favorite store, we want to be a store for all Americans," the store said in a statement to ABC.
And it's a welcome perspective considering we do not always get to see lesbian couples so beautifully represented as they were by JC Penney or racial diversity among the gay community so largely displayed as it was by J.Crew.
Let's hope this ushers a new wave of advertising targeting the LGBT community while (inadvertently) championing gay rights in America.