Orbitz Travels to Gay Cable TV
In the gay twist, the man also eyes a stud through the binoculars. Roman Coppola, son of Francis Ford Coppola, directed the spot from Young & Rubicam, Chicago.
It is the first-ever customized commercial meant to speak directly to a gay audience, and it will begin airing on gay-themed programs on Bravo Network and BBC America, running through the summer. It will appear on BBC's, "So Graham Norton," a racy talk show with a gay host, the gay-friendly, "Absolutely Fabulous," as well as two new Bravo shows, the dating program, "Boy Meets Boy" and a fashion makeover show, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," debuting July 15.
"I'm trying to show Orbitz is a gay-friendly company, not just bring traffic to our site," says Jeff Marsh, the Chicago-based company's openly gay director of marketing strategy and promotions. "The genesis of this ad idea came when I read the storyboards. It was immediately apparent I could put a gay twist on it and make a gay ad."
Queers Big Business
Because of its popularity, the Gay Travel section (known as a microsite) landed a link on the home page, along with high volume links including Disney, Las Vegas, Europe, and others.
"Because the microsite is so successful, the commercial was a no-brainer," explains Marsh, who spent six years in marketing at Quaker Oats Co. "When Bravo was launching those two programs, it made the media plan possible."
Bravo received a lot of attention for its shows debuting in July. "Boy Meets Boy" features a 32-year-old from Southern California looking for love among 15 potential male mates, some of whom are just pretending to be gay. The six-episode program was shot in Palm Springs and only kissing was allowed. On "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," a team of gay males guide fashion-challenged straight men.
Last summer, the NBC-owned Bravo network featured "Gay Weddings," in 2001 "Gay Riviera" and "Fire Island" in 2000, all reality series. It also featured "Out of the Closet," its annual June festival of gay programming. "Gay Weddings" did particularly well, bringing the network its highest ratings ever when aired against the Super Bowl, obviously reaching a different audience.
Travel advertising continues to grow in the gay market. Reservations company Worldspan has recently begun a relationship with Gay.com and Planet Out to offer up a "private label" search engine for airfares on those sites, part of the company's new strategy for affiliate programs.
Flying the Flag
Across the Atlantic, Travelocity broke a campaign in the UK featuring interviews with stereotypical male flight attendants delivering sexual innuendoes, but the ad was not intended to appeal to gay viewers. The clip is presently being furiously passed around the Internet.
While Bravo has not officially tried to pitch its new programs to companies seeking the gay market, it's in a unique position to solicit them, though it will take some work.
Advertisers have little experience in seeking gay TV viewers, with hurdles including a lack of research on gay viewing habits, greater cost of TV production and media, and small gay marketing ad budgets. But the benefits include reaching a larger, more diverse audience than existing media. Sharp-eyed executives can achieve affordable, gay-targeted TV efforts with minor changes in creative execution and smart media plans.
Mike Wilke's Commercial Closet column covers gay issues in advertising, marketing and media. For 85 years of gay images worldwide see www.CommercialCloset.org.