Posted by Amanda Chapel
This post needs a little preface. In the interest of clarity, we need first to define "flamer." According to the Urban Dictionary, a "flamer" is:
1. A person who constantly starts fights on forums or message boards. Usually with many vulgar statements, and outright lies. "That guy is ALWAYS insulting my posts, no matter what! He's such a freakin' flamer!"
2. An outgoing homosexual, who is very open with his gayity. Extremely flamboyant. Very bright clothing, loud speech, upbeat attitude, often noisy or annoying, intrusive. Very very gay. "That guy is acting out some Broadway musical in the middle of the street... what a flamer."
For those who might have missed it, late last week one of the world's leading PR firms released the findings of a survey on gay marketing. It's a total flamer.
Okay, probably best for me to admit that I am not totally comfortable with the topic. To quote Jerry Seinfeld, "I am not gay!; Not that there's anything wrong with that." It's not that I have a problem with gay. Live and let live. I am a little uncomfortable here because to even broach the subject is so thoroughly NOT politically correct.
As we are all aware... today certain discussions... women, jews, blacks, etc... will invariably incite a hell storm of PC scrutiny and subsequent condemnation. No matter what, right or wrong, left or right, with these select topics you are bound to get in trouble with someone somewhere. Today, you just can't call a spade a spade without being misinterpreted by some or purposefully misinterpreted by the agenda-driven others. I am sure Jesse and friends have already boarded the ambulance and contacted the media to comment on the harms and bankrupt privileges the result of two thousand years of abject gay victimhood.
Well... to not dance on the third rail as if on a float in the Pride Parade would be totally unStrumpette and dishonest. So with that said, last Thursday Fleishman-Hillard's gay and lesbian communications practice, FH Out Front, announced the results of a national survey.
The survey found that:
- 82 percent of those surveyed indicated it does not matter to them if a company whose products they use on a regular basis also promotes them to the gay community.
- 68 percent of those surveyed indicated that knowing a company promotes its products or services to gays has no effect on how they feel about the company.
FANTASTIC! I imagine that the dance ball dropped from the ceiling and the FH conference room was transformed into a mix of muscle-baring bartenders and over-endowed go-go boys the likes the Chelsea nightclub Splash has never seen.
HOLD IT! Nix the Donna Summer boys, put your shirts back on, not so fast. In the press announcement Fleishman with a velvet glove gingerly massaged a few things that would scare the pants off of any CMO:
- 22 percent of respondents indicated they would have a lower opinion of a company that specifically markets to gays.
- 22 percent indicated this would make them less likely to purchase the product.
- 7 percent of respondents would participate in the boycott.
Well, certainly, business is all about risk but this is kind of the marketing equivalent of blowfish sushi. For those that are not familiar, fugu is an ultra-popular delicacy; at the same time the amount of fugu poison that can fit onto a pinhead is enough to kill a man. The poison in a single blowfish could kill 30 men.
Why would a CMO even consider it then? The freedom? The thrill? I don't think so. Sounds to me more like the preliminary paperwork for early retirement.
The real question is, "Why would a PR firm even push it?" We can only conclude that it is either to make money with a new product service at the client's expense... or perhaps because the firm is actually gay. It's probably a combination.
For those new to PR, here, let's put today's agency demographics in context. Conservatively now, the industry is 75 percent women. Of the 25 percent remaining, about 5 percent are eunuchs that hold the senior management positions. Of the 20 men with wieners left, about 10, those that have proven to exhibit no ethics, work as managing directors in the satellite offices or are in the corporate practice. The remaining 10 or so are all "otherwise sexual." Fact is: fruits, queers, fairies, swishes, pansies and homos are the lifeblood of the Consumer Marketing, Entertainment and Healthcare practices. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
See... PR was hit particularly hard by Women's Lib movement a few decades ago. Frankly, it was an innocuous place for corporations to put them. As such, the business morphed from the more strategic command and control to tactical services aimed at consensus building. As such, men exhibiting the fraternal birth order effect (that's the name given to the observation that the more older brothers a man has, the greater the probability is that he will have a homosexual orientation) had a greater chance for success. It's anthropological! Obviously, the sisters and their gay little brothers could not compete for food via confrontation in the pack. Survival relied more on their skills at building coalitions and consensus.
Frankly, I think John Graham, chairman and CEO of Fleishman-Hillard, looked around a few years ago and noticed that most of the men in the office there had the tendency of walking on the balls of their feet. They seemed smart and fairly affluent. And they also seemed to congregate a lot. They seemed to get along with the women in a totally non-sexual way. Surely the spark of genius went off in Graham's head. "Hey Wehrsten... ya know, I think we can make money with that! How 'bout a Gay Practice to go along with our Black Women Jews Practice?" The rest as they say is history.
Anyway, it sounds to me like Fleishman commissioned a study for promotional purposes that unfortunately produced results that were not all that favorable. Sadly, what it really sounds like was that they were hell bent on trying to make a silk purse.
I wish Fleishman well with their practice. I hope then don't practice too much, not that I think they'll get too much of a chance to. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
The above demographics are an estimate and NOT at all exact. The numbers are an aggregate and as such can skew quickly. Obviously, for example, there is a preponderance of counter tenors at the mid and lower levels in agencies. That explains why the counter tenors outnumber the tenors in the PR Blogosphere, for instance.
For example, take slide #6 in Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz' presentation to the IAOC European conference last Friday: "Institutions must cede control of the message in order to participate in the conversation." Might as well be advocating corporate poppers to help relax the sphincter for Christ's sake. I mean, how gay is that?
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What a great blog! I just discovered it through the Marketing Sherpa nominations - congrats, by the way! I look forward to reading more of your scintillating entries.
Cheers! Wendy Maynard
Interesting commentary, Amanda. I think you're right that if I were to have this on my desk - I would probably say "stick it in a drawer!"
I requested the full top-line from FH and as I am looking it over one thing comes to mind; this is targeted at mainstream companies who perhaps have never thought about marketing to the GLBT consumer.
Example: the press release prominently states in the 2nd paragraph that they "also found that a majority of Americans would 'do nothing' to support a boycott against companies targeted for promoting their products to the gay and lesbian community."
The thing is why wouldn't you just save this for a strategy session with your clients to prove to them that any fears they have about their product 'going gay' are unfounded and silly?
FH obviously means well by this and is understandably trying to tackle an issue that overall, isn't catching politically. I have a feeling though that this 'it won't hurt you to snuggle up the fegalahs' mentality might be swayed by more defensive means than a proactive stance.
Ultimately though, I would be interested in hearing more about how they intend to use this before saying that their motives are completely inflammatory.