There once was a time when women were portrayed exclusively by Madison Avenue as moms or wives (remember Mrs. Folgers who scolded wives for not giving their husbands a good cup of coffee in the morning?); and a time when “ethnic” ad agencies were regularly hired by brands who wanted to reach out to the “niche” African American (once called “urban” audience), Asian and Hispanic markets, by creating ads that ONLY included one ethnic group or another. And, there once was time when gays and lesbians were treated similarly—with ads featuring stereotypical gay characters running exclusively in niche-publications catering exclusively to the LGBT community. Marketers called it “Niche Targeting.”
Today, we don’t think twice about seeing women, African Americans, Asians and Hispanics in all sorts of advertising. We’ve travelled through the age of “I need a Hispanic in this group shot” or “can we get an African American couple holding hands in the corner?” and into a Post-Racial-Sexual-Age-and-Gender-advertising world. In short, we’re knee-deep into a “Post Niche Society.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that everyone’s on the bandwagon here, but with an African American as president, polls indicating that more than 50% of the population favors gay marriage, and all sorts of progressive indicators, we need to start accepting the fact that change is ‘gunna come (if it is not already here now).
The most recent addition to this Post Niche Age is the LGBT community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender). It has been happening slowly over the last couple of decades (as such change typically does). We need to credit mainstream gay celebrities and producers (thank you Ellen, Will & Grace, Modern Family, etc.), and adventuresome brands (thank you Gap, Kenneth Cole, etc.) with crossing the sexual gap and creating a more accepting environment where gays and lesbians mix freely in national advertising campaigns.
Still, the recent Gap, JC Penney, and Ray-Ban ad campaigns featuring gays and lesbians are still receiving a fair amount of press talking about the “revolutionary” aspect of these ads, and questioning the consumer response (how many customers will it “alienate”). But clearly these big brands are listening to their customers, who are already living in this Post Niche Age world or at least are trying to push us forward as a society. So, is it just the press that’s behind the times? Perhaps.
There’s an old adage that says that consumers like to see themselves in advertising, to better relate to the brand. Isn’t it time that we all start calling this the “Post Niche Age” and understand that consumers are now dragging marketers into the mainstream world that doesn’t see race, age, sexual orientation or gender?
Isn’t it time we all move post-niche, and start understanding the global village where we know live?