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A Blackened Eye for Queer Guys
Bravo rejects commercials courting randy gays.
By Michael Wilke


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OCTOBER 1, 2003. The Bravo Network apparently found the growing enthusiasm for its new gay-themed hits too much of a good thing, and backed out of carrying commercials for two sexually-charged businesses.

After briefly featuring a commercial for Interactive Male, a gay phone chat service, in its hit prime time programs, "Boy Meets Boy," and later "Queer Eye For the Straight Guy", Bravo drew the line at gay chat web site, Mygaydar.com.

An ad rep emailed Mygaydar.com: "Bravo will be unable to air the commercial due to Standards & Practices issues." Bravo subsequently pulled Interactive Male's spot off the air after receiving "a complaint," the New York Daily News reported.

The Right Time?
In the Mygaydar.com spot, a muscular man in sunglasses enjoys a drink by the pool as children shout, and young women futilely wiggle their breasts at him. When another muscular stud finally struts over, sits down, and takes a swig of the drink, the voiceover says, "What you want, when you want it."

New York-based David Munoz, owner of CompuQuest, the firm that owns Mygaydar.com, explains, "We wanted something humorous and steered away from something sexually charged."

The ad was shot two years ago, held until the time seemed right, and is now easily accepted on most local cable stations. Munoz wanted to move up to network cable and take advantage of Bravo's gay dating show, figuring it was a "no-brainer and an easy mark we could afford" to advertise on. The $30,000 national buy was turned down by the network (though accepted locally in New York City by Time Warner Cable).

The Interactive Male ad features a cowboy dressed in a tight black tank top, saddling up a horse as he says, "If you know exactly what you want, or are just a little bit curious about it, call Interactive Male now."

Pictures and Gay Complaints Scares off Bravo
While NBC-owned Bravo did not provide the two advertisers with direct answers detailing why their ads were not running, Bravo did issue a press statement: "After careful review it was the network's opinion that these spots were inappropriate for broadcast on Bravo. Had the ads been heterosexual in nature, the same determination would have been made."

Bravo has not officially elaborated, but a network executive explained off the record that Mygaydar.com was rejected because it provided printed materials that included "borderline pornographic photographs" such as one naked man kneeling in front of another.

The executive added that the Interactive Male spot was pulled after complaints were made by viewers, a "significant amount" of whom identified themselves as gay, though the actual number was unknown.

"Ads non-explicit and tame"
"We try to keep our ads non-explicit and tame," says Manson Osmond, senior brand manager for Interactive Male at its parent company, Teligence, "We've gained a lot of strides in media in the last few years," noting the company's entry to outdoor media and network television, 97 percent of it after 10 p.m.

Teligence, based in Vancouver, owns five adult chat lines. Four of them are straight, pulling in $74 million in combined revenues, with over $11 million coming from the gay one. The company targets ads at male programs and dating shows in particular. "We're not looking just for gay men but we also go after closeted and bi-curious people," Osmond says.

Meanwhile, Bravo still owes Teligence for advertising it already paid for. Osmond says an executive with their ad-buying company, Advantage Media Services, was told by Bravo to "wait a month or so for everything to blow over and then they would reinstate us for 'Queer Eye'" in late night.

"It did really well for us," Osmond notes of the program's response rate.

Like Teligence, CompuQuest is in the phone chat business too, but in 1999 decided that the internet was the way of the future partnering with British firm QSoft Consulting which produces Gaydar.co.uk. The U.S. version, independent, but identical to the British one, has 400,000 users and grew 60 percent in the last two years, according to Munoz.

"This year we wanted to move into broadcast. It's hard to get a large portion of my market, it isn't accessing gay media," Munoz says.

Advertisers Target Gay Viewers
Winning its biggest ratings ever with "Boy Meets Boy" and "Queer Eye" (over 3.35 million viewers alone), Bravo has become a rare opportunity for marketers to reach sizable gay audiences, although specific audience demographic data is lacking. Orbitz created the first gay twist on a straight commercial and received a strong response when it aired.

Other brands in gay print media also appear on Bravo, like Neutrogena for Men, Baileys, Disaronno, Jaguar, Volkswagen, and films such as "Mambo Italiano" and "Camp."

Bravo has not said if its sales teams are targeting gay-interested advertisers, though clearly it has created an environment to reach large numbers of gay viewers, a welcome option for marketers since most gay media offers a limited reach.

However, as the network pushes the programming envelope, it should prepare better to meet accompanying challenges, and develop clearer guidelines for marketers and would-be advertisers. Most importantly, Bravo should avoid alienating the very market from which it is reaping benefits, or it faces a Queer Black Eye.

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.



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