If you watched Glee last night, I hope this once you didn’t fast forward the ads. To be more precise, I hope you didn’t skip the very first commercial from Google Chrome. Because if you did, you missed something pretty extraordinary. See for yourself.
Now, that was extraordinary not only because it was well done, which it was, but because it was a gay-themed commercial that ran during primetime in the middle of a hit TV show on a major American broadcast network. And that, well, that doesn’t happen too often.
The “It Gets Better” ad is the second released by Google in its new campaign to promote its Chrome web browser. It features Dan Savage and his anti-bullying and suicide-prevention project, It Gets Better, which was created on YouTube. The clip features snippets of famous and non-famous folk alike in their It Gets Better videos. Even Woody from Toy Story makes an appearance. If you tell me you didn’t swallow hard or grab for some Kleenex at that point, you’re lying or made of stone – stone I say.
The other Google Chrome ad, which also began airing yesterday, was called “Dear Sophie” and featured a dad making a digital scrapbook for his newborn daughter and continuing it as she grew older. Both ads are simple yet powerful. But the “It Gets Better” ad breaks from the traditional heartstrings commercial territory of a dad and his daughter and goes for the bigger and, yes, gayer picture.
Now, of course, there have been gay-themed ads and ads with gay people in them before. Over the years countless PSAs have tackled LGBT issues. Groups like GLSEN and The Trevor Project have run successful campaigns featuring everyone from Wanda Sykes to Daniel Radcliffe. Companies like Subaru, IKEA and Absolut have had gay friendly advertising for years.
But gay-themed or gay-positive ads on primetime broadcast TV are still very rare. In fact, outside of advertising on cable channels like Bravo, MTV and Logo it’s hard to think of many that have aired in recent years. In 2000, John Hancock Financial Services aired a groundbreaking commercial featuring two lesbian moms coming home with their newly adopted daughter. But after its initial airing, it was cut to seem vaguer about the women’s relationship. It aired in its more ambiguous form during the Olympics and World Series.
In the past few years there have also been controversies about LGBT-themed ad being rejected from playing during the Super Bowl. Sure, semi-naked Go Daddy girls are fine. But gays looking for love are simply not acceptable.
It remains to be seen whether the “It Gets Better” ad will air elsewhere than its safe primetime space of Glee. The show is a natural fit for the ad because of its large gay audience and prominent gay storylines. But will we see this ad on American Idol or NCIS? Will this commercial play all across the dial?
And will we see any backlash along the lines of Glenn Beck calling Glee a “horror” and “propaganda” or Fox News guests debating whether the show is “glamorizing homosexual behavior?” Because, as we all know, any representation of the non-majority culture is clearly “propaganda.” Look, folks, if people could be persuaded to change their sexuality based on what they see on TV, we’d all be straight and having an affair with the pool boy.
So, did you like the ad? Do you think you’ll switch to Google Chrome? And, tell the truth, did you tear up?