Clothing line Bench caused a stir this Valentine’s week when it launched #LoveAllKindsOfLove.
It is an advertising campaign that features four different couples: legendary actress Gloria Romero and grandson Chris Gutierrez, TV host/fashion model Solenn Heussaff and fiance Nico Bolzico, Preview magazine creative director Vince Uy and boyfriend Nino Gaddi, makeup artist Ana Paredes and girlfriend, interior designer Carla Peña.
In support of the campaign, Bench put up billboards of the four lovely couples along EDSA Guadalupe last February 11. However, some people noticed that the clasped hands of Uy and Gaddi had been painted over.
The finger-pointing as to who is to blame regarding this objectionable move as well as the logic behind it will likely drag on for the next few days. Regardless of all those back-story, it is clear that Bench did something that has never been done before, which is to feature same-sex couples for a promotional campaign with the theme of love and equality.
Portrayal of “effeminate” men in TV ads
In recent years, so-called “effeminate” men have been portrayed with ridicule in various television ads. Last 2012, The Filipino Scribe discussed Colt 45’s series of TV spots from 2008 with the catchphrase “Men should act like men. Strong beer should truly be strong.” Here’s an excerpt:
The catchphrase “men should act like men” mandates that all men have to act according to socially-established gender rules of conduct. This include not showing a “soft” even to his girlfriend, not allotting so much time to clean his face, and not making any comments about a woman’s fashion style. Men who do not observe the standards of heteronormativity are regarded as “hindi tunay na lalake,” or worse, labeled as “effeminates” and “gays.”
The heterosexism in the TV ads of Greenwich (2009, starring John Lloyd Cruz and Lloyd Zaragoza) and KFC (2012) were considerably less in-your-face compared to that of Colt 45 since it is packaged as humorous, but it is still undeniable.
One also can’t help but notice the fixation with the terms “man-sized” and “man-up,” as if only men are capable of eating voraciously. Watch the two videos below:
At this point, it must be said that Bench is merely following the example set by numerous American companies in the past year or so. For instance, the New York Times noted in 2013 that commercials with LGBT-friendly messages are getting broader exposure by becoming more and more visible in national television.
“While targeted media and events remain part of the game plan, they are also running in mainstream media that, in addition to general cable channels, include magazines like Family Circle, newspapers like The New York Times and social media like Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube,” the report said.
Billy Kolber, publisher and creative director of the online travel magazine Man About World, explained in the said NYT article that the presence of those types of ads in mainstream media have more impact “because it says these companies are willing to offer public support.”
If anything, Bench should be commended for taking the risk of running ads which highlight the fact that the love felt by those in same-sex relationships is as authentic as the romance between straight couples. That will undoubtedly go a long way in helping change the negative outlook held by some Filipinos toward the LGBT community in general and same-sex couples in particular.
The logic behind this is plain and simple. It is important for Filipinos to realize that gays and lesbians are also capable of being in committed relationships just like straight people and that this reality does not mean anything negative to the rest of the society. You can never underestimate the power of the media to shape the minds of the people.
Once this goal is achieved, the next step is to make Filipinos understand and eventually support the need for gays and lesbians to have more rights under the law like a shield against employment discrimination, recognition of same-sex partnerships, etc.
However, companies that take a bold stand in sensitive topics like same-sex relationships should expect to receive negative feedback from some segments of the society.
For example, Honey Maid received a deluge of hateful comments shortly after it ran a TV spot which featured a gay couple with their child. Nevertheless, the marketing geeks of the product were able to think of a clever way to respond to the outrage from social conservatives.
Can Bench serve as a trailblazer in helping gays get better portrayal in local advertisements? Yes, but it depends on three conditions:
1) If the brand is willing to do another ad campaign similar to this in the coming months (otherwise, this is just a fluke)
2) If other companies will be brave enough to follow Bench’s lead (e.g. Nestle)
3) If a majority of the public will continue to be vocal in supporting ad campaigns similar to what Bench did