Queer on-screen representation is still a battleground; this time roping in one of the most popular clean-wipe brands and the US’s largest private employer. Indeed, the latest Cottonelle and Walmart gay-themed commercials just enraged some conservative groups. And liberals aren’t having it.
Just recently, a commercial came out where two gay men are on a blind date at Walmart. Of course, it isn’t the first time Arkansas-based retailer had a tough time navigating an LGBTQ-related issue.
Walmart moved to increase its LGBTQ equality score though, with their blind date commercial turning into a dating series.
This particular series features two gay men named Andy and Pat shopping and cracking jokes in a Walmart store.
Entitled “Love in the Aisle,” the commercial already has a second episode. Posted on Facebook, it garnered 866,000 views to date.
Cottonelle isn’t safe from controversy for its own video, either. The popular toilet paper brand released a video titled “Meet his parents” that, plainly, encourages gay men to use toilet paper before meeting their significant others’ parents. What seemed “off” about the ad is the idea of parents critiquing rear hygiene.
Conservatives cry foul
Predictably, Walmart’s commercial didn’t sit well with the American Family Association (AFA), which lamented that the video “normalizes homosexual relationships.” AFA promptly launched a petition to have Walmart remove it.
AFA president Tim Wildmon said that:
“It’s clear that Walmart is on the path of elevating homosexual relationships to the same level as the male-female model of marriage.”
Wild encouraged supporters to air out their grievances for Walmart’s shift away from neutrality.
As for the Cottonelle commercial, Christian conservatives think the queer-centric TV spot spells doomsday. A popular Christian website even went as far as proclaiming that:
“We further progress down the road to destruction.”
Calling their bluff
Bospar PR principal Curtis Sparrer believes that conservatives didn’t simply stumble across these segments, however. The companies themselves, Walmart and Cotonelle, alerted these conservative groups.
“It looks like the marketers of both Walmart and Cottonelle were counting on social conservatives’ outrage to drive their business objectives,” — Curtis Sparrer.
Social media is the target medium of the video. Marketers count on public reaction to their campaigns according to Sparrer. “There’s a method behind the madness.” he added.
Sparrer explains that conservatives usually provide immediate reactions to any pro-LGBT story line. It creates a newsworthy controversy for journalists to cover.
“Media coverage will not only feature both sides of the controversy but also provide top-of-mind brand recognition that research has found is more effective than traditional advertising.” — Curtis Sparrer.
Social conservatives could get wise
As the saying goes, “all publicity is good publicity.”
Social conservatives have become useful “tools” — in this case — for marketers and public relations. They have unconsciously given Cottonelle and Walmart a boost in terms of publicity.
Sparrer openly admits that he has been gay longer than he is in marketing. He says he is still eager for the day when LGBT people can be featured in media and people will simply react on the spot to the merits of a commercial’s content.