Please Don’t Show People Like Myself

It’s often said that advertising is more effective when viewers feel it shows people like themselves. But is this true? One might wonder after perusing the results of a poll, by Witeck-Combs and Harris Interactive, that compared the attitudes of gays and lesbians to those of heterosexuals. As you can see from the chart, gays and lesbians were significantly more likely than heterosexuals to say TV commercials “rarely show people like me.” (Presented with a slightly longer list than the chart displays, respondents were asked to pick the three statements with which they agreed most strongly.) It’s also clear, though, that gays/lesbians are more indulgent toward commercials than heteros are—more likely to find the spots informative, less likely to find them offensive, etc. The pattern was similar when respondents were asked about print advertising. Obviously, these anomalies could stem from any number of causes. We can at least hypothesize, though, that advertising’s efforts to show audiences people like themselves are at times more off-putting than engaging.