Philadelphia Extends Gay Marketing to TV

NEW YORK Philadelphia is taking an unprecedented step in its courtship of gay travelers by airing the first television spot by a U.S. city aimed at that demographic.

The city has appealed to the gay market before. In November, it ran two print ads that depicted Betsy Ross stitching a rainbow flag—a symbol of gay pride—and Ben Franklin flying a rainbow kite.

“There’s been a ton of municipalities at this point [that] have done gay marketing, but none of them have gone into TV,” said Mike Wilke, founder of Commercial Closet, a nonprofit association and Web site that monitors the way gays and lesbians are portrayed in advertising.

While gay cruise lines RSVP and Olivia employed TV ads in 1998 and 1997, few travel or destination sponsors have used spots to speak to a gay audience. Wilke pointed to last year’s Orbitz campaign by Young & Rubicam, which used marionettes to depict male and female business associates admiring the view from their hotel room. While she points to the scenery, he admires a man lounging poolside.

In the spot from the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp., a Colonial-era man writes to his love by candlelight. He beseeches the object of his affection to “Journey to Independence Hall, where we will be at liberty to meet this Monday.” The scene cuts to the landmark, where the writer waits for his beloved, flowers in hand. A young woman approaches, but he ignores her and lights up at the sight of his boyfriend. An announcer says, “Philadelphia and its countryside has a long history of making everyone feel welcome and free.” The campaign tag remains, “Come to Philadelphia. Get your history straight and your night life gay.”

“They’ve gone beyond the ‘Come visit us, we’re gay friendly,’ appeal and focused on what distinguishes Philadelphia from Provincetown or Key West—the long history,” Wilke said. “That should appeal to gay people as well as straight people.”

The spot, by the Altus Group in Philadelphia, is part of a $2 million campaign that also supports three general-market ads, eight radio commercials and outdoor messages. The TV work will bow in mid-June on Comcast cable channels and run through the summer, said client rep Cara Schneider.

“We’re unsure of how people are going to react to this. We know we’re going to get beat up by some people,” said Schneider, who added that the corporation has no intention of retreating from what it sees as an important step in attracting gay travelers. “We’re allowed to see how it goes and take a pulse.”

The organization is looking for a third-party endorser to sponsor an extended run and other marketing, Schneider said.