That doesn't mean there weren't some controversies over ads featuring LGBT couples this year. A Wells Fargo ad featuring a lesbian couple adopting a child sparked Billy Graham churches to drop the bank. Advocacy group One Million Moms protested a Campbell's Soup ad for featuring gay dads. The group also blasted Tylenol's #HowWeFamily campaign, which had a same-sex prom couple and gay fathers among its featured couples.
Still, agency Fancy Rhino chief creative officer Vann Graves believes we've come a long way since 1994 when Ikea had to pull the first TV commercial featuring a gay couple in a mainstream commercial because of bomb threats.
Twenty-one years later, when Honey Maid ran its now-famous "This Is Wholesome" campaign featuring all kinds of couples, he pointed out that there was more applause than backlash. Graves said the idea of using all kinds of families was further expanded in the Tylenol ads.
"Each of these brands are embracing the underlying LGBT values to promote acceptance and open-mindedness, thereby appealing to a larger audience," he said. "These ads show that LGBT marketing has become less about LGBT and more about a basic human truth."
Deutsch NY CEO Val DiFebo, whose agency was responsible for the 1994 IKEA ads, added that the ad was "brave and groundbreaking" for the time. But, just this summer, she saw brands use key LGBT moments like Pride Month and the Defense of Marriage Act decision as real-time marketing opportunities, just like #Superbowl or #TheGrammys.
"Using trending hashtags like #GayMarriage or #AcceptanceMatters, or incorporating rainbow colors on social pages or logos, allow brands to become part of the conversation, a moment in history, in a contextually relevant way," she said. "When leading advertisers decide that endorsing gay marriage won't hurt their bottom line and they treat it as if it is commonplace, there's been a marked change in society."
DiFebo added there can be a risk for brands just trying to jump on the bandwagon and feature an LGBT couple without having a legacy with the community. It can also be a turn off if there's no need or reason if the ad feels forced with no purpose.
"Don't fake it," she pointed out. "Make sure the brand can translate into this segment with integrity and be real. Just breaking into LGBT advertising for the sake of the brand being 'cool,' runs the risk of negatively impacting the brands reputation."