Marketing the Gay Lifestyle

An Ikea furniture commercial portrays a young couple who look for all the world like newlyweds. They wander about the store, exchanging affectionate glances as they select furniture for their home. The scene would be a cozy appeal to family life except for one detail: The couple is gay. The commercial is one example of how advertisers portray sinful behavior as perfectly normal. Other ads flirt with substance abuse. Last year, Newsweek ran a series of articles highlighting what was then a new advertising trend-one it labeled "heroin chic". These ads featured skeletal, sunken-eyed models who looked like heroin addicts. Ginna Marsdon of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America said the ads made a lethal drug look glamorous. Other ads suggest that there’s no real difference between the sexes. Perfume manufacturer Tommy Hilfigger has been advertising a unisex fragrance with male and female models all identically dressed, all sporting the same hair style. The underlying message seems to be that men and women are interchangeable. Clearly, advertisers are selling social agendas along with the fragrance and the furniture. This is not to say that advertisers are intentionally ideological in their ads. Most of them are simply pragmatists out to make a buck. They’re trying to appeal to markets with high disposable incomes, like gays and teenagers. But going after the bottom line has turned corporations into agents of social radicalism. Ads that glamorize gay lifestyles and drug use have helped normalize and spread deviant behaviors. Harvey Cox, author of The Secular City, writes that Western culture used to look to God for its values. But today we’ve lowered our sights to the purely secular horizon with its pragmatic values. Today’s urban secular man, Cox writes, is interested only in results. He has little interest in metaphysical considerations. The only question he asks is: "What works?" The irony is that businesses have historically acted as a conservative force in society. But with these ads, they’ve become a leading edge into perversity. It’s time for folks in business to realize that they’re responsible not just for what they sell, but also for how they sell it. Instead of focusing simply on what works, advertisers ought to consider the consequences of the images they’re projecting into our minds and hearts: They’re filling our eyes and ears and imaginations with vivid images of sin—lowering our resistance to immorality. Ads that make sin look normal and even chic can lead to tragic consequences. Just ask the parents of teenagers who died of a drug overdose. Or ask anyone who’s watched a loved one embrace the gay lifestyle, only to die an early death from AIDS. You and I have a simple way of letting businesses know what we think of their ads: Boycott their products. And if you hold stock in companies that sell unhealthy lifestyles along with their products, let them know why you object to these ads with an attitude.


Chuck Colson


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