Dear World Brands: A message from your friends, The Gays

AMERICAblog reader Usagi posted a particularly good comment yesterday, reprinted below, regarding our earlier story about Ikea recently pulling a feature story about a gay couple from the Russian version of its magazine, “Ikea Family Living.”

Ikea was concerned that the article might be illegal under Russia’s draconian new anti-gay “propaganda” law.

We noted that Ikea had a choice between simply ignoring the Russian law or censoring their magazine.  Ikea could have simply pulled their magazine from Russia all together:

Ikea could have simply pulled its magazine entirely from Russia, and put up a big sign in its stores where the magazines used to, and done a mailing to its customers in Russia in place of its magazine, informing everyone that the magazine was pulled because of Russia’s new anti-gay propaganda law.

While I’m no great fan of Ikea caving in any way to Russian bigotry, it’s at least marginally better for them to pull the magazine entirely, and put up a notice educating the Russian public about the ramifications of the country’s anti-gay, than to agree to ethnically-cleanse their own advertising in the face of nationalist bullies.

MOSCOW - AUGUST 22, 2013: Rainbow pole with pointer showing distances from Moscow to Russian cities where IKEA stores are available. (Oleg Golovnev /

MOSCOW – AUGUST 22, 2013: Rainbow pole with pointer showing distances from Moscow to Russian cities where IKEA stores are available. (Oleg Golovnev /

Here’s Usagi’s response, in full:

Dear World Brands (and aspiring world brands),

Thanks so much for realizing that gay people have money to spend on the stuff you’re selling, and that targeting us directly in your advertising makes it more likely we’ll throw some of that money your way.

You’re a bit late to the party, but the good news (for you) is that most of the gay-specific stores that popped up in the 80s and 90s have gone the way of the dodo. There are two important things you need to get up to speed on, though, if this is going to work for you.

First, it’s the 2010s.

While including same sex couples (or even a same-sex couple with their kid) was absolutely radical back in the day, it isn’t anymore. In fact, it’s sort of de rigueur. You have heard that in about one-third of the US states, we’re up to legal marriage? Yeah, really, who saw THAT coming ten years ago?)Non-discrimination policies, spousal benefits, outreach, IGB video, targeted advertising, all that?

Yeah, that gets you zero bonus points anymore because it’s the minimum standard (but hey, at least you’re in the game).

Second, you can’t thread the needle on this. Sorry.

There’s the core of hard-case nutjobs who really most sincerely hate Teh Gays with every fiber of their being. Sometimes it feels like they don’t do anything but wake up in the morning and look for something to be offended by.  Kind of like that s-storm General Mills walked into a few months back with the Cheerios commercial with the adorable bi-racial girl who talked to her white mother about how heart-healthy Cheerios is, then put cereal on her black father’s chest while he was sleeping on the couch; how adorable was that?

Yeah, probably better you don’t read the comments on that video or you might start thinking that the whole idea of a post-racial society was a bigger crock than the tooth fairy.

(NOTE FROM JOHN: Actually, the comments for the video on YouTube were subsequently “disabled” because, reportedly, of how racist they became.  I did find some similar comments on a video interviewing the little girl in the video and her real-life biracial parents.

Here’s one:

cheeriosYes, wouldn’t want to “promo-gate” anything.)

So, like the old song goes, there are no neutrals here (or if you want to flash back to the millennium, you’re either with us or you’re against us).

You can either appease the haters or you can market to us. You can’t do both successfully. The world is too connected now. We don’t hear about this stuff two moths after it happens in the back of a weekly gay paper, we see it in a dozen twitter feeds and Facebook status updates almost as soon as it happens. Kind of a bummer for you, but it’s an imperfect world. If you’re going to market to us, you’d better commit. We’re a bit touchy about the whole commitment thing (fair-weather friends, years of being asked to hide behind the potted plants on the edge of the room — you understand).

Here’s the thing, those people who hate the gays so very, very much will always find something to call you on. You really can’t ever appease them. In fact, since you’ve explicitly pulled the gay content for them, they’re liable to start looking for coded stuff that you left in, whether it’s there or not (rainbow fingernail polish and so forth).

Even if they crow about getting you to endorse their gay-hating agenda (which BTW is standard operating procedure for them — they lie about things like that, a lot), they’re still not going to buy your stuff. Google “parallel economy” sometime to get an idea what they really think of you.

(The Parallel Economy is a group of Christian (Dominionist mostly) businesses that aspire to provide all of the goods and services required to other Christians so that they do not have to patronize any businesses that support a secular agenda. When you get down to the lower part of the rabbit hole, there’s the usual conspiracy stuff with demons and Satan replacing the Illuminati and the Lizard People in the New World Order. Thing is, there are parts of the country where they are VERY effective. You can’t buy from anyone who isn’t in the parallel economy, and the people who patronize it deliberately do so, quite literally, religiously (as in, it is a tenet of their religious practice to only buy from identified Christian sources so that their money serves only to further the cause, and they will go without rather than support the secular economy).)

We, the gays, on the other hand, are generally happy to spend money on people who flatter us with advertising. The flip side is we’ll cut you so fast if you betray us, you won’t know what hit you. And no one carries a grudge the way we do (ask Coors beer about how that goes).

So, most people are willing to forgive a little advertising faux pas.


Really, we get that World Brands still aren’t totally up to speed on the new interconnected world we live in.

The corollary is that you get one chance to fix it, too. Or we cut you. Because if there’s one thing that we’ve learned very vividly, it’s that our worst enemies aren’t the haters. There aren’t that many of them; they’re just very, very noisy. No, our worst enemies are the neutrals. Because they pretend they’re not doing anything for anyone, but what that really means is that they’re enabling the haters and defending the status quo (for whatever reason: ignorance, cowardice, profit–it really doesn’t matter).

You want our money and our business? Cool. Earn it.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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