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Boy Oh Boycotts (and Other Reactions to JCPenney’s Advertising)

My friend called me this week and asked if I’d seen the newest Father’s Day ad from JCPenney. Before I could answer he said, “it was perfect.”(COPY: “First Pals: What makes Dad so cool? He’s the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver — all rolled into one. Or two.”)

The copy, he went on to explain, “tugged at his heartstrings” and all at once made him (a gay man) feel simultaneously unique and accepted.

So, naturally, it’s surrounded by controversy.

This isn’t JCPenney’s first foray into the controversy arena. Earlier this year, One Million Mom’s was up in arms when JCPenney hired gay celebrity Ellen DeGeneres to be their spokeswoman. They boycotted the store and encouraged others’ to do the same.

(On a side note, I wonder if all of those One Million Mom’s also boycott Cover Girl, American Express, Pepsi, Healthy Choice and Old Spice – all of which have gay spokespeople. But I digress.)

But JCPenney didn’t even blink. In response to the boycott, they’ve kept running ads featuring gay and lesbian couples, taking a firm stance on one side of the culture war. So naturally, now they are being accused of using that stance as a media ploy. To, essentially, use same-sex couples to further their marketing needs.

But JCPenney isn’t the only retailer that features ads depicting gay couples. What about these ones from Gap, Wells Fargo and Ray Ban.

Images courtesy of The FW.com, Human Rights Campaign, Gay.net, and TowlerRoad

In my opinion, the reason it’s both controversial and occurring more often, isn’t because of the shock factor. It’s that it normalizes gay couples. It makes them look – gasp – just like everyone else. So all JCPenney and all other retailers who are choosing to run similar ads are really doing is marketing to their customers in a way that falls in line with their company values.

So, they’re advertising.

And if it makes people have a conversation, all the better.

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