What’s worse for a business’s bottom line than wading into controversial, divisive issues?
Wading into controversial, divisive issues with the very demographic likely to be divided from your business by your actions.
I recently discovered that Hulu, a company offering streaming of TV shows, movies and other video content, is running a homosexual-themed advertisement during family/kids programming. The commercial was created by upscale fashion retailer Nordstrom and advertises their “gifts.” It’s one of two such commercials, both of which involve the idea of coming back to someone you love.
The first ad is innocent, portraying a person who is obviously a grown daughter visiting her very happy mother after an absence. The second, however, shows a handsome young man opening a door and a dog trotting up to greet him as a jingle begins with the words “For your love I will go far; I want to be wherever you are.” He’s then met by another handsome young fellow, and, so no one can mistake them for brothers, they give each other a warm “romantic” kiss on the lips.
EDITORS WARNING: This Nordstrom advertisement shows homosexual acts:
While such an ad is guaranteed to alienate at least some viewers during any programming, you’d have to be really stupid to run it in the midst of shows watched largely by traditionalists and their children.
And, lo and behold, this is precisely what some marketing geniuses at Hulu have decided to do.
I have personally confirmed that the ad in question has been running for quite a while during The Rifleman and Dennis the Menace, both of which began their runs in the late 1950s. Given this, it’s reasonable to suspect the commercial is also being aired during other older programs Hulu offers, although I haven’t checked any other series.
Obviously, these shows’ demographics don’t include a large proportion of Haight-Ashbury and Greenwich Village types. They’re generally watched by those who long for more innocent programming. Moreover, traditionalists may have their children watch the old Dennis the Menace in an effort to provide entertainment less corruptive than the effluent disgorged by Hollywood’s current sewer pipe. Do the people at Hulu really think these parents want their young kids exposed to a homosexual-themed ad?
Obviously, many businesses today want to be what they consider hip, and companies such as Hulu often have management and employees who are mainly liberal and who have a skewed view of the world; in addition, homosexuals are a demographic with great disposable income, so they’re definitely part of Nordstrom’s customer base.
But they’re not generally going to be reached via more traditionalist shows. Thus, even if you’re a completely amoral marketing executive who worships the dollar, shouldn’t it occur to you that a homosexual-themed ad during traditionalist family programming is self-defeating?
The stupidity of this move is profound. Ads such as the one showing the mother and daughter are neutral; after all, everyone, no matter his political stripe or sexual behavior, has loved ones such as a mother, father or sibling. The ad could also portray a married couple (meaning, by definition, a man and woman) — that’s normal.
In contrast, homosexuals are two percent of the population. Additionally, I tend to think they’ll be attracted to Nordstrom by the merchandise offered regardless of who is portrayed in an ad. It’s unlikely, for instance, that the first commercial mentioned (mother-daughter theme) will alienate them. But it’s guaranteed that a homosexual-themed ad will alienate people — especially when played during 55-year-old television shows.
So here’s a clue for the people at Hulu: you may be living in the echo chamber of the metrosexuals in your office, but not everyone in America wants to have to explain to their children why two men are kissing on TV.
Update: it does appear that, at approximately the time this piece was submitted for publication, Hulu pulled the homosexual-themed ad. I’d complained to the company during the last three weeks, going back and forth with its representatives a few times. Since they didn’t seem to be responding adequately, I told them it was time for me to take the next step, which meant writing about the matter (I’d told them I was a journalist).
My judgment may be premature; I’ll only be able to say definitively that the ad is history after evaluating Hulu’s programming for a longer period of time. But let’s hope that they’ve seen the light — even if it’s just the light of the bottom line.