current issue
gay mundo
bush plus
arts series
gully español
about us
contact us
action resources

In an ad called "Opener," a man hides under a bar and his butt is "confused" with a bottle opener by the bartender as a softball team orders 30 beers.

Related Gully Coverage

Complete Coverage Gay Mundo

Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon (C) is sacked by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp (R) in Super Bowl XXXVII, in San Diego January 26, 2003. Tim Shaffer

The Commercial Closet

Gay-themed Super Bowl Ads

by Michael Wilke

FEBRUARY 22, 2003. Several advertisers spent over $2 million on gay-themed ads during Super Bowl XXXVII, though none scored a touchdown, and few would speak about their sometimes outrageous efforts.

Clown No Joke
Anheuser-Busch continued a perverse campaign from DDB Needham with several references to sodomy. In one ad, a clown walks into a bar, upside-down. The man in the clown suit is actually right-side up. Speaking from inside the clown's butt, he asks the bartender for a beer.

While he drinks, everyone in the bar tilts their heads and watches with grimaces — it must look as if he's giving himself an enema — but the camera is spared this visual. When the clown man then asks for a hot dog, the bartender sternly replies, "I don't think so." That visual would have suggested something like anal sex.

In an earlier ad in the campaign, called "Opener," a man hides under a bar and his butt is "confused" with a bottle opener by the bartender as a softball team orders 30 beers. Anheuser-Busch — which has pursued the gay market since 1996 — refused to comment about its new clown ad, citing the negative rating on for the earlier spot.

Skating on Thin Ice
Diageo, a marketing conglomerate, also paid millions to run a Super Bowl spot. Their ad, for Smirnoff Triple Black Ice, is about a woman named Alex meeting a blind date at a bar. She accidentally introduces herself to the wrong guy. After the right one shows up, a trashy playboy whose Corvette license plate reads, "The Brad," the first guy moves in to save the dejected woman by intercepting Brad and introducing himself as Alex. Brad flees.

Diageo markets Tanqueray, Cuervo, Captain Morgan and Baileys to the gay community. While they recently ran three gay-themed mainstream commercials for Baileys, Diageo refused to comment or even return numerous calls about the Triple Black Ice spot.

Saving a few million dollars, Miller Brewing Co. and Nextel purchased ad slots before or after the actual Super Bowl, but still scored lots of viewers.

Virginia-based Nextel is running a celebrity campaign starring Eric McCormack of "Will & Grace," film actor Rob Lowe, Kristin Davis of "Sex & the City" and TV host George Lopez. The ads feature "true-to-life scenarios" from their lives, and employ a split-screen to simultaneously illustrate a situation with and without the Nextel phone.

In the Lopez ad, his daughter has borrowed his car. In the scenario with the Nextel phone, he calls her to bring it back and she does. But in the phoneless version, he must borrow her pink Volkswagen Beetle with a license plate that reads "Boycrazy." As he pulls up to a stop light, a car full of guys pulls up next to him and checks him out as he turns away.

Through its ad agency, Mullen Advertising, Nextel declined an interview about its commercial, saying it did not intend to make a gay innuendo, but they did offer a written statement: "The humorous effect in the George Lopez spot comes from his embarrassment at being stuck in his daughter's outrageous car... Her pink bug with the license plate is typical for a teenage girl, but embarrassingly out of place for a middle aged, successful guy with his image to consider."

Lesbian 'Catfight' Draws Hisses
Prior to the Super Bowl, Miller Brewing Co. attracted a lot of attention for "Catfight." It features two smartly dressed women at a cafÈ who bring back Miller's classic "Tastes great/Less filling" debate in an over-the-top battle in which they tear each other's clothes off and tumble into a nearby fountain. During the action, two guys in a bar discuss what a great ad the fight would make as one asks, "Who wouldn't love that?" Their girlfriends sitting next to them stared in disbelief.

In versions of "Catfight" that air on cable and late night TV, the women also land in a tub of wet cement where one says, "Let's make out." Although a kiss wasn't included, one was shot by the agency, Ogilvy & Mather. However, Miller Brewing spokesman Scott Bussen said, "it never got past the cutting room."

Advertising Age's critic called the spot an "abomination," while many women describe it as a return to sexism. Others found the lesbian reference objectionable. But the ad has also gotten support. "People don't often take the time to make compliments, but 45% of feedback was positive," says Bussen. "For the remainder, the vast majority was focused on saying that it was 'inappropriate' and that was mostly parents. About 10 percent of the complaints received perceived us as endorsing lesbianism."

An ad agency source says that a follow-up reverse fantasy for females is planned for the spring, and may include men in a similar, tongue-in-cheek situation.

Miller Brewing may not please everyone with its commercial, but the company sets the standard by openly discussing the issues raised with its advertising. Marketers must be consistent with the gay community — not market to them on the one hand, and offer up commercials employing gay jokes with the other, then refuse to discuss it. If they do, why shouldn't gay consumers suspiciously eye their gay marketing efforts as duplicitous and pandering?

Mike Wilke's Commercial Closet column covers gay issues in advertising, marketing and media. For 85 years of gay images worldwide see

Related links:

For more about the Clown Ad.

For more about Opener.

For more about the Smirnoff Triple Black Ice Ad.

For more about Catfight.

For Complete Coverage Gay Mundo

Gay Mundo
gay pride The Gully's ultragay coverage. Includes musings on activism, info on queers from Puerto Rico to Taiwan and more.

From global warming to gay- trendsetting. Includes headlines, politics, and news from beyond.

About the Gully | Contact | Submit | Home
© The Gully, 2003. All rights reserved.