Pure data helps bring commercials out of the Closet

The FT has given us a quick glimpse at the growing acceptance of gay and lesbian life in North American advertising. What's driving this trend? A growing recognition of the broader purchasing power of this demographic group.

... evidence is emerging that - contrary to popular perception - gay and lesbian buying patterns closely resemble those of the general US population. A recent study by MindShare, a division of the WPP Group, with the Poux Company and Lightspeed Research, revealed that the gay market is not in fact dominated by buyers of up-market goods. Half the respondents said they regularly shopped at Wal-Mart and about one in four owned a Sears card.

The recent US Census results provided advertisers with the detail they needed to pitch more business:

And for the first time, new U.S. Census data about same-sex households is providing a look at gay demographics, via a new "unmarried partners" option in the 2000 survey, as detailed in a new book, "The Gay & Lesbian Atlas," by Gary Gates and Jason Ost.

It discovered same-sex couple households are present in 96 percent of counties nationwide, totaling 1.2 million individuals. One in four gay households have children, more than one in 10 gay homes have a senior over 65, and male couples prefer cities while females prefer the suburbs.

Bob Witeck of Witeck-Combs Communications, a Washington, D.C., gay marketing firm ... is enthusiastic about the census results, pitching three new clients with it. "We needed to know the geography for the community. While there's a 'duh factor,' there were also surprises in where people live. Also, you can mine the data. It's richer and deeper than surveys."

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