After its gay-themed programs became a hit this summer, Bravo Network found too much of a good thing and backed out of carrying commercials for two sexually charged businesses. The network briefly carried a commercial for Interactive Male, a gay phone chat service, in its primetime Boy Meets Boy and later Queer Eye For the Straight Guy programs, but then drew the line when a gay chat Web site, mygaydar.com, also offered up an ad.
An ad rep told mygaydar.com by e-mail: 'Bravo will be unable to air the commercial due to Standards & Practices issues.' Subsequently, Interactive Male's spot was pulled off air after Bravo said it had gotten 'a complaint,' the New York Daily News reported.
In the mygaydar.com spot, a muscular man in sunglasses enjoys a drink by the pool, as raucous children shout and young women wiggle their breasts fruitlessly at him. Then another muscle stud struts over, sits down and takes a swig of the drink. The voiceover says, 'What you want, when you want it.'
New York-based David Munoz, owner of CompuQuest, the firm that owns mygaydar.com, explains, 'We wanted something humorous and steered away from something sexually charged.' The ad was shot two years ago, but held until the right time, and is now easily accepted on most local cable stations. Munoz wanted to move up to network cable and take advantage of Bravo's gay dating show. The $30,000 national buy was turned down by the network (though accepted in New York City by Time Warner Cable).
The Interactive Male ad features a cowboy dressed in a tight black tank top as he saddles up a horse and says, 'If you know exactly what you want, or are just a little bit curious about it, call Interactive Male now.'
Pictures and Gay Complaints
While NBC-owned Bravo left the two advertisers without answers as to why their ads were not running, a press statement was issued: 'After careful review it was the network's opinion that these spots were inappropriate for broadcast on Bravo. Had the ads been heterosexual in nature, the same determination would have been made.'
Bravo has not officially elaborated, but an executive at the network shared off the record that the rejection came when mygaydar.com provided printed materials that included 'borderline pornographic photographs' such as a naked man kneeling in front of another. The executive added that the Interactive Male spot was pulled after complaints about it, a 'significant amount' of whom identified themselves as gay, though an actual number was not known.
'We try to keep our ads non-explicit and tame,' said Manson Osmond, senior brand manager for Interactive Male at its parent company, Teligence, 'We've gained a lot of strides in media in the last few years,' noting its entry to outdoor media and network television, 97% of it after 10 p.m. Teligence, based in Vancouver, owns five adult chat lines. Four of them are straight, pulling in $74 million in combined revenues, over $11 million from the gay one. The company targets ads at male programs and dating shows in particular. 'We're not looking just for gay men but we also go after closeted and bi-curious people,' Osmond says.
Meanwhile, Teligence is still owed by Bravo for advertising it bought. Osmond says an executive with Advantage Media Services, which buys advertising for them, was told by Bravo to 'wait a month or so for everything to blow over and then they would reinstate us for Queer Eye' in late night.
'It did really well for us,' Osmond notes of the program's response rate.
Like Teligence, CompuQuest is in the phone chat business too, but in 1999 decided that the internet was the way of the future and partnered with British firm QSoft Consulting behind gaydar.co.uk. The U.S. version, independent but identical to the British one, has 400,000 users and grew 60% in the last two years, according to Munoz. 'This year we wanted to move into broadcast. It's hard to get a large portion of my market—it isn't accessing gay media,' Munoz says.
Advertisers Target Gay Viewers
Winning its biggest ratings ever with Boy Meets Boy and Queer Eye (over 3.35 million viewers alone), Bravo has become a rare opportunity for marketers to reach sizeable gay audiences—although specific audience demographic data is lacking. Orbitz created the first gay twist on a straight commercial and aired it with much attention.
Other brands in gay print media are on Bravo too, like Neutrogena for Men, Baileys, Disaronno, Jaguar, Volkswagen, and films such as Mambo Italiano and Camp.
Bravo has not said if its sales teams are targeting gay-interested advertisers. However, as the network pushes the programming envelope, it must better prepare to be equally challenged by marketers and develop clearer guidelines for would-be advertisers. Bravo should carefully avoid alienating the very market it is reaping benefits from and avoid a Queer Black Eye.
See www.commercialcloset.org .
Biometrics for Security
By Judith Markowitz, PhD
President, J. Markowitz, Consultants
Recently, we marked the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. One of the by-products of those attacks (and the continued concern about security) has been growing interest in biometric-based security.
Biometrics are personal attributes that can be used to ensure that a person is who she or he claims to be. Unlike passwords and PIN numbers, they can't be stolen, borrowed, or shared.
Virtually any unique trait can be used as a biometric identifier. Law enforcement has a long tradition of using bite patterns, footprints, tattoos, and scars to help identify criminals. Not long ago a masked Australian bank robber was identified by his distinctively knobby knees.
Some biometric characteristics can distinguish individuals on a much larger scale than one person's knobby knees. The most well-known of them are fingerprints and DNA, but there are a number of commercially available computer-based biometrics that are being used to protect our personal information, our homes, our computer networks, and our country. They include speaker verification, 'live-scan' fingerprinting (computer rather than human-readable fingerprints), face recognition, signature recognition, and hand geometry. These biometrics are different from DNA and standard fingerprint analysis because they are fully automated and provide immediate results.
No specific biometric is the magic bullet for all applications. Iris and fingerprint recognition, for example, are excellent for securing access to buildings but they are not useful for milling crowds. Face recognition is much better. Speaker verification is the only biometric that can be used over standard telephones. It has already proven itself for telephone banking and similar telephone-based systems. The state of Illinois has extended the photo on our driver's licenses to include face-recognition data—to make it harder to print fake licenses. The use of these and other biometrics—in conjunction with other kinds of security—is designed to reduce fraud, to protect our private information, and to prevent tragedies like 911 from happening again.
Markowitz is recognized internationally as one of the leading independent analysts in speech recognition and voice-based biometrics. www.jmarkowitz.com . She was recently profiled in Windy City Times.