Wednesday, August 26, 2009
In 2004 the issue of same-sex marriage catapulted into the media spotlight when San Francisco’s newly elected mayor, Gavin Newsom, allowed city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Colorado became a focal point for the issue after two of its politicians, U.S. Representative Marilyn Musgrave and U.S. Senator Wayne Allard, proposed an amendment that banned same-sex marriage. Also based in Colorado, the Christian group Focus on the Family Action began campaigning to preserve what it considered ‘‘traditional’’ marriage. In response Denver-based Gill Foundation, America’s largest contributor to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations, launched the ‘‘TurnOut’’ campaign to drum up voter support for same-sex marriages and sexual-orientation antidiscrimination laws. Between 1994 and 2004 the Gill Foundation invested nearly $54 million in LGBT-related issues, and in 2003 it contracted advertising agency DDB Seattle to create the ‘‘TurnOut’’ campaign for the months preceding the 2004 presidential elections. Television and print advertising appeared in July and targeted cities that had no laws to protect Americans from losing their jobs because of their sexual orientation. Six television spots played like minidocumentaries, showing real people coming out in their workplaces. These employees described what it was like to keep their personal lives secret at work and explained how they planned to disclose their sexual orientation to coworkers and management. The spots ended by directing viewers to http://www.TurnOut.org, a website that revealed the results of each person’s effort and explained other key LGBT issues.
Although Musgrave was reelected in 2004 and Allard was reappointed to serve as a deputy majority whip in 2005, a survey showed that, by the end of the ‘‘TurnOut’’ campaign, its audience felt more receptive to same-sex marriage issues. From an ad industry standpoint ‘‘TurnOut’’ was highly successful; it won five awards at the 51st Annual Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival as well as a Clio Award.