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GM's 'Gay' Chevrolet Volt Ad Goes Viral

Small-market print ad aimed at Michigan LGBT community racks up more than 11 million views via social media.

By Joshua Condon Jul 18, 2012 10:04AM

Image by General Motors.Last month, General Motors ran a print ad for the Chevy Volt in Between the Lines, a newspaper for gays and lesbians in the Michigan area, for a reported total cost of $750. The ad was created specifically for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community around the Detroit Gay Pride 2012 festival in June, with a rainbow icon running beneath the image and a tagline of an anthropomorphized Volt saying, "Mom, Dad, I'm electric" to a pair of Chevy models -- a Tahoe and Cruze -- looking on from the sides. The ad also included text that said, in part: "So, whatever revs your engine, we support you 100%" and "Happy Motor City Pride from the entire Chevrolet family."

A major car company engaging in niche marketing is hardly new, or newsworthy. What is newsworthy is that this ad racked up more than 11 million views on social media, according to the Detroit Free Press. Especially noteworthy is that during the scrutiny that came with the ad's sudden viral popularity, GM has seemingly survived any suggestion of "gay-washing," or the practice of cynically adding LGBT themes or characters to an advertising campaign without the companywide inclusive bona fides. Indeed, according to Between the Lines' PrideSource, GM "achieved the top rating of 100 percent in the Human Rights Campaign's 2011 Corporate Equality Index and was included on the foundation's 'Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality' list," as well as created "its own 'It Gets Better' video for the Trevor Project."

Image by General Motors.Aside from fostering a gay-friendly image with the ad, recent data also suggest the Chevy Volt may have been the smart choice to put in front of LGBT consumers -- perhaps especially given the ad's attempt to humorously portray the vehicle's "outsider" status. According to a 2011 survey of 200,000 consumers by Maritz Research, gay and lesbian consumers are better-educated and make about 10 percent more money than their heterosexual counterparts, and account for about 5 percent of new-vehicle purchases. Furthermore, gay and lesbian shoppers are more likely to consider fuel-efficient and tech-laden vehicles, according to a 2011 survey of 40,000 LGBT consumers by San Francisco-based Community Marketing. The Community Marketing survey also found that Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chevrolet are the most popular automotive brands among that demographic, 17 percent of whom said they planned to purchase a new vehicle within 12 months.

Travis Parman, Nissan's corporate communications director who happened to complete his master's degree thesis on the LGBT community, told the Detroit Free Press that Chevy's ad may signal a resurgence of niche marketing, which was hurt during the bleak financial realities of the Great Recession. "As the economy starts to come back," he said, "people become more confident in investing in the niche media again."

[Source: Detroit Free Press; PrideSource; The Car Connection.]

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