The 50 Gayest Ads Ever

Why is it still so shocking to see gay people in mainstream ads? At a time when every other demographic is practically shoehorned into marketing for the sake of diversity, gays and lesbians are still all but invisible in the TV advertising landscape. But while you might not have seen many yourself, gay-themed TV ads are definitely out there. To close out Gay Pride Month, we tracked down 50 of them from around the world and organized them into seven categories that seem to keep popping up ("Lesbians Are Hot," "Don't Tell Mom," etc.). Check out the collection after the jump.


Probably the most common way homosexuality is used in TV advertising is as a dramatic twist (or sometimes a punch line). Here are 10 ads that put subtly different spins on the surprise ending.

  1. Miller Genuine Draft

    Click to view YEAR: 2001
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: JWT
    If you'll buy people drinks without even knowing what they look like, you're obviously not the narrow-minded type to begin with.
  2. Solo

    Click to view YEAR: 1995
    COUNTRY: Norway
    AGENCY: JBR
    A classic "Oops, gay!" approach, this time used to sell Norwegian orange juice, though the product gets a bit lost in the mix.
  3. Silverjet

    Click to view YEAR: 2007
    COUNTRY: U.K.
    AGENCY: M&C Saatchi
    Since an airplane is the only place where you really find co-ed bathrooms these days, I have to assume women are constantly having sex in the stalls everywhere else.
  4. Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp.

    Click to view YEAR: 2004
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: Unknown
    Philly tourism brings history and homosexuality together, without even turning it into a joke. Nice example of how destination marketers have been on the leading edge of gay-friendly advertising.
  5. Volkswagen

    Click to view YEAR: 2004
    COUNTRY: Germany
    AGENCY: DDB
    Volkswagen finally breaks the stereotype that only straight people are lame enough to drive minivans.
  6. MTV

    Click to view YEAR: 2001
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: Public Interest Productions/Radical Media
    One of the few ads that show gay people being active in a subculture, especially one as adrenaline-fueled as skating.
  7. Sony

    Click to view YEAR: 1999
    COUNTRY: Australia
    AGENCY: Generator
    What, you can't carpool with a 1970s pro wrestler without being considered gay?
  8. Kronenbourg 1664

    Click to view YEAR: 1998
    COUNTRY: France
    AGENCY: Unknown
    If Mentos ads had lesbians and beer, they'd look like this.
  9. Dolce & Gabbana

    Click to view YEAR: 2006
    COUNTRY: U.K./Italy
    AGENCY: Unknown
    One of several gay-inclusive international ads for Dolce & Gabbana.
  10. Johnnie Walker

    Click to view YEAR: 1997
    COUNTRY: Australia
    AGENCY: Leo Burnett
    Johnnie Walker's Australian campaign in support of "revolutions" was ahead of its time, and probably a bit optimistic. As recently as 2010, Australia's Senate rejected a Marriage Equality Bill.

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Not every gay and lesbian ad features someone flaunting their sexuality. Keeping it mum around Mum (or Dad, or a co-worker, or a spouse) is another common theme. 
 

  1. McDonald's

    Click to view YEAR: 2010
    COUNTRY: France
    AGENCY: BETC Euro RSCG
    Subtle and surprising, this McDonald's ad sparked lots of buzz around the globe by bringing gay-friendly messaging to one of the biggest brands on Earth.
  2. Absolut Cut

    Click to view YEAR: 2006
    COUNTRY: Australia
    AGENCY: TBWA
    Subtitled subtext is a pretty tired ad cliché, but it's a nice way to show how much goes unsaid when parents and children decide to ignore the obvious.
  3. Hyundai

    Click to view YEAR: 2006
    COUNTRY: Sweden
    AGENCY: Leo Burnett
    This couple actually has more in common than they think.
  4. Toyota

    Click to view YEAR: 2006
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: Saatchi & Saatchi
    Hard to blame the dad here. Other than guys, who comes to pick up a date, screeches to a halt and refuses to get out of the car?
  5. Vodafone

    Click to view YEAR: 2005
    COUNTRY: U.K.
    AGENCY: JWT
    A twist on the theme, this one has some fun with the idea of coming out of the closet but stops short of a typical punch line.

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Gay and lesbian ads come in many forms, but bisexuals only seem to be shown one way: as opportunistic sex fiends. 
 

  1. Ikea

    Click to view YEAR: 2010
    COUNTRY: Austria
    AGENCY: Unknown
    A fun ad with a cool twist, this Austrian spot for Ikea is one of many that seem distrustful of bisexuals.
  2. Eclipse

    Click to view YEAR: 2007
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: BBDO
    Admittedly, not much happens here, but it was still enough to upset the American Decency Association, which vowed to boycott the brand over its "strong allusion to lesbianism."
  3. Yes Satellite TV

    Click to view YEAR: 2003
    COUNTRY: Israel
    AGENCY: McCann Erickson
    Another "Can't trust a bi" ad, but Juliet seems to roll with it.
  4. Durex

    Click to view YEAR: 2009
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: Fitzgerald+CO
    Now this, this is just hilarious.
  5. Amstel

    Click to view YEAR: 2002
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: DMB&B
    This spot has sparked quite a bit debate on GLAAD's Commercial Closet forum. Several bisexuals found it positive and respectful, while others dismissed it as a male fantasy celebrating promiscuity.

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Not all gay-themed ads are actually about gay people. Spots featuring straight folks in gay situations often end with what GLAAD calls a "homo-queasy" punch line. Others are surprisingly clever.

  1. Marmite

    Click to view YEAR: 2003
    COUNTRY: U.K.
    AGENCY: DDB
    Many gays were offended by this British spot's apparent revulsion toward man-on-man makeout sessions. I was more offended by the fact that "making out during mouth-to-mouth" is just about the most tired cliché in advertising.
  2. Heinz

    Click to view YEAR: 2008
    COUNTRY: U.K.
    AGENCY: BBDO
    "British viewers didn't quite understand the metaphor that Heinz and AMV BBDO were going for with this spot, which was pulled after more than 200 complaints.
  3. Budweiser

    Click to view YEAR: Unknown
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: Unknown
    Hard not to like this one, even if the writing is a bit clunky. For a brand like Budweiser, this is about as forward-thinking as you can hope for.
  4. DHL

    Click to view YEAR: 2007
    COUNTRY: South Korea
    AGENCY: Unknown
    Delivery service DHL will send along anything for you. Anything.
  5. Virgin Atlantic

    Click to view YEAR: 2004
    COUNTRY: South Africa
    AGENCY: BBDO
    One of my favorite gay-themed ads of all time, even if it does have a bit of a "homo-queasy" punch line.

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Ah yes, we finally arrive at the sexy lesbians, a timeless ad tactic of marketers who want to seem inclusive while usually just pandering to male fantasies. But you're not reading this anyway, are you? You're already looking at the lesbians. Why do I bother? 
 

  1. Castro Dresses

    Click to view YEAR: 2006
    COUNTRY: Israel
    AGENCY: Reuveni-Pridan
    This Israeli spot for fashion retailer Castro was apparently so good, it inspired the knockoff below.
  2. Renault

    Click to view YEAR: 2010
    COUNTRY: Italy
    AGENCY: Publicis
    And this would be the aforementioned knockoff.
  3. Levi's

    Click to view YEAR: 2008
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: BBH
    Levi's has gotten high marks in recent years for its inclusive advertising. But while this spot is a bit less sensationalist than the others, it still seems quite a bit more sexualized than the brand's male-focused ads.
  4. Jim Beam

    Click to view YEAR: 2010
    COUNTRY: Australia
    AGENCY: The Works Sydney
    Part of a well-shot but unapologetically misogynistic Australian campaign for Jim Beam.
  5. Tinkoff Brewing

    Click to view YEAR: 2005
    COUNTRY: Russia
    AGENCY: Unknown
    In Russia, nothing sells beer quite like Pavarotti and lesbians.
  6. Miller Lite

    Click to view YEAR: 2003
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: Ogilvy & Mather
    The best-known lesbian commercial ever made. A poolside argument escalates into an epic wrestling match. In the cable version, the brunette took it a step further, saying to the blonde: "Let's make out."
  7. Blue Light

    Click to view YEAR: Unknown
    COUNTRY: Unknown
    AGENCY: Unknown
    I assume there's an extended version where the three guys share some ChapStick.
  8. Clothestime

    Click to view YEAR: 1996
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: Mendelsohn Zien
    Before their bread and butter was burger porn for Carl's Jr., Mendelsohn Zien was already trying to bring some erotica to advertising.
  9. Impulse Body Spray

    Click to view YEAR: 2002
    COUNTRY: U.K.
    AGENCY: BBH
    What, doesn't this happen to you every day or so?
  10. Mac's Convenience Stores

    Click to view YEAR: 2007
    COUNTRY: Canada
    AGENCY: Bos
    One of several short Web videos created as viral marketing for the new "WTF" orange drink being sold by Mac's Convenience Stores in Canada. Never has an ad so perfectly matched the product name.

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We could dedicate an entire list to gay-rights activism in advertising, but we'd rather focus on the mainstream work. Still, here are a few of our favorites.

  1. MakeHomosexualsMarry.org

    Click to view YEAR: 2010
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: Saatchi & Saatchi
    In this Web video supporting the overturn of California's Prop 8, Justin Long and Mike White showcase the pet peeves that gays share with straights: passive-aggressive jabs, late-night pornography, penis surfboards … you know, the usual.
  2. PFLAG

    Click to view YEAR: 2003
    COUNTRY: Canada
    AGENCY: ZiG
    This series of Canadian PFLAG ads has the same message as the Justin Long clip above, but this spot comes off so dark, it's practically doing a disservice.
  3. Bjorn Borg

    Click to view YEAR: 2008
    COUNTRY: Sweden
    AGENCY: Farfar
    When fashion house Bjorn Borg decided to launch a fully inclusive dating section of its site in 2008, the Swedish brand decided to go a few steps beyond just supporting gay marriage.
  4. EuroPride 2009

    Click to view YEAR: 2009
    COUNTRY: Switzerland
    AGENCY: TBWA
    There's a little gay in all of us. And he's quite the showman.
  5. Israeli Gay Youth Organization

    Click to view YEAR: 2006
    COUNTRY: Israel
    AGENCY: Unknown
    You know you've made a good gay-rights ad when you don't even have to show—or say—that the characters are gay.

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Finally, we get to the holy grail of advertising for those who've sought gay equality: inclusive, respectful (and usually quite boring) ads that treat gay people like anyone else. I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that these are often the most controversial. 
 

  1. Chemistry.com

    Click to view YEAR: 2008
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: Hanft, Raboy and Partners
    Probably better known for its "Nope, still gay" ad that aired nationally during Heroes, Chemistry.com also made a less flippant pitch for gay singles with this 2008 spot.
  2. Levi's

    Click to view YEAR: 2007
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: BBH
    Levi's and BBH broke down walls figuratively and literally with this spot, which featured alternate endings with male and female love interests.
  3. Orbitz

    Click to view YEAR: 2005
    COUNTRY: USA
    AGENCY: Y&R
    Orbitz had a flurry of game-show-themed spots in the mid-1990s that featured gays and lesbians, though none was more gay than this over-the-top gem.
  4. Travelocity

    Click to view YEAR: 2003
    COUNTRY: U.K.
    AGENCY: St. Luke's
    Does this ad perpetuate stereotypes or just have some edgy fun with them? You could argue either way, but the sheer fact it was made at all says a lot about our comfort level with discussing gay sexuality.
  5. Muddy York

    Click to view YEAR: 2011
    COUNTRY: Canada
    AGENCY: Henderson Bas Kohn/The Corner Store
    A recruitment mockumentary from Toronto's gay rugby team, the Muddy York Rugby Football Club. A guy comes out of the closet and realizes he loves men … and rugby.
  6. FTD

    Click to view YEAR: 2006
    COUNTRY: Germany
    AGENCY: Heymann Schnell Werbeagentur AG
    Honestly, it would be stranger if the guy got flowers from a woman. Still, a nice bit of inclusiveness from Germany.
  7. Dolce & Gabbana

    Click to view YEAR: 2006
    COUNTRY: U.K./Italy
    AGENCY: Unknown
    Dolce & Gabbana notoriously oversexualizes everything they do, so this ad seems downright understated by comparison.
  8. Pepsi Max

    Click to view YEAR: 2009
    COUNTRY: U.K.
    AGENCY: Unknown
    While it's yet another "Surprise, he's gay!" twist, you still have to respect the fact that a megabrand like Pepsi would make such a gay-friendly spot.
  9. Bianco Footwear

    Click to view YEAR: 2008
    COUNTRY: Denmark
    AGENCY: &Co.
    Not all inclusive ads have to treat gays like straights. Bianco Footwear made an entire campaign about homosexuality being a great way to double your shoe collection. (Check out the lesbian version here.)
  10. Guinness

    Click to view YEAR: 1995
    COUNTRY: U.K.
    AGENCY: Ogilvy & Mather
    Sorry to end this list on a bit of a downer, but it's probably worth the reality check. When Guinness created this beautifully crafted spot in 1995, massive negative backlash kept the spot from ever airing. So, how far do you feel we've come since then? Will major brands soon feel free to include gays in their advertising without fear of boycotts and table-pounding pundits? For now, gay-friendly advertising is still for the bold—or at least, those bold enough to know a $743 billion market when they see it.

Note: This project would have been impossible (or at least a lot more difficult) without the Commercial Closet archive hosted by GLAAD. For hundreds more spots and print ads, searchable by brand or agency, check out their site.