One of the interesting and also distressing fallouts of Ellen DeGeneres’ media-hyped “coming out” last week was the decision by a number of major advertisers to either pull out of the show or simply steer clear.
In many respects, this should have been an advertising opportunity of Super Bowl dimensions. The ratings were huge, but more than that, the audience fell into the demographic most desired by sponsors: consumers in their 20s, 30s and 40s who tend to buy things.
A spokesman for Volkswagen, which did air a commercial on the show, put it this way: “It’s about advertising our products to a target audience of drivers, which matches the viewers of ‘Ellen,’ and which would include many different lifestyles.”
Polls tend to affirm Volkswagen’s position: Americans are taking an increasingly “live and let live” attitude about sexual orientations. (The ratings would seem to affirm that stance.) Unfortunately, too many advertisers continue to be influenced by a handful of fringe groups whose homophobic crusades and hollow threats of product boycotts tend to get in the way of sound business decisions.
Do executives at Chrysler Corp., one of the advertisers that pulled out, really and truly believe that their bottom line is going to be affected by whether or not their 30-second ad runs on “Ellen”?
If the answer is yes, then American attitudes are a lot different than the numbers would seem to indicate.