Ads: selling beer or acceptance?
By Sylvia Mioduszewski
Before it was even seen, a Molson Dry commercial featuring a lesbian couple in a bar had already created a furor. In the advertisement, a man is turned down by a beautiful woman in a bar in favour of her female companion.
The sexual contact between the women is implied they lean in for a kiss as the commercial ends, said Diana Rose, director of corporate marketing and consumer relations at Molson Breweries. "The commercial was basically a joke on a guy who tried to pick up at a bar and was really open-ended depending on interpretation," she said.
"We don't know when, if ever, we will air it," Rose said, adding the media attention and controversy is a factor in the indecision.
The commercial was approved for air by Advertising Standards Canada, which deals with alcoholic content in beer ads, said Linda Nagel, president and chief executive officer of ASC. They do not see a video copy of any commercial before it is approved, but are sent a story board and script, she said, adding ASC only advises a company when concerns due to content arise.
Although homosexual couples have historically appeared in ads in magazines geared toward that community, a number of companies such as IKEA and Smirnoff have featured same-sex relationships, said James Miller, an associate professor of English at Western. He said this concept is relatively new in mainstream media.
The ad is not targeting the gay and lesbian community, Rose said. "We recognize people have different sexual orientations," she added, explaining the commercial has many market entry points with hopes that both men and women will find it appealing.
Beer ads have usually been straight, Miller said. "This type of ad markets the lesbian relationship as a turn-on to heterosexual men and tries to aid sales by making beer desirable."
Alexa Duggan, president of the uwOUT! club at Western, said these kinds of ads exploit the gay/lesbian lifestyle to sell beer to young men, adding lesbians are accepted by straight men if they are heterosexually attractive.
"The ad is hardly an affirmation of the gay and lesbian scene," said Miller. He added beer as a medium for political activism has not worked before.
"You only have to reverse the genders to know that Molson is not supporting same-sex relationships," he said. "It will be a cold day in hell before we see gay men represented in straight-directed beer ads."