There is nothing revolutionary about being gay and working in advertising. But an advertising business that specialises in connecting brands with gay and lesbian Australians is a new concept.

Everyone knows that the pink dollar is out there. It is significant and influential, but to date, big brands have not been communicating properly with this market.

Research shows that 1 in 10 Australians are same sex attracted with annual disposable incomes of around $20 billion. Gay & lesbian consumers are also an advertiser’s dream, typically SINKS & DINKS (single and double income with no kids) over-indexing on expenditures in travel, fashion, technology, cars, property, dining out, luxury items – basically everything except kids’ stuff, although we are very generous aunts and uncles.

So after selling media for 15 years for some of the biggest media companies and being gay for about the same period of time, I decided to combine the two and started Pink Media Group six months ago, a gay and lesbian media network specialising in connecting brands with the pink dollar.

Having owned a gym advertising business in the past one industry figurehead accused me of having a career built on selling my lifestyle. He’s right, but apparently if you know and love what you do then you’ll be successful.

The response from agencies, advertisers and media owners has been amazing, and I am having fascinating conversations with all sorts of people on a daily basis.

Sitting in a focus group with a room full of lesbians recently was fascinating. I never realized how much lesbians love Bunnings and Subaru. A Subaru campaign in America targeting lesbians has rubbed off on the girls here.  Martina Navratilova starred in the ads and now every lesbian I know is either driving or aspiring towards a Subaru Forester.

Showing Harold Mitchell how to use Grindr (a location-based mobile app for finding ‘local gay, bi and curious guys for dating or friends’) was a recent highlight; he has appreciated the gay consumer for years as regular patrons of the arts.

One agency account director said that the gay market has been identified as relevant for campaigns so many times in her career but she has never known how to advertise and communicate with this market. They have simply ignored them and hoped their straight media would cross over.

It is true that gay people see generic ‘straight advertising’, but it is not as effective as relevant advertising communications within our media space. Research from Southern Star Magazine readers shows that 87% of their readers will provide further consideration to a company’s products or services if the company actively advertises to the GLBTI community.

A major national retailer who spends tens of millions per annum on advertising rang me as they are aware that their advertising has been focusing on white families with 2.2 kids, rather than an accurate representation of the population.

Grindr, for example, is the world’s number one mobile app for gay men. With 3 million users globally, Australia is the 4th most popular country with 125,000 users. During the Sydney Mardi Gras we are expecting around 200,000 gay men to be using Grindr on their phone for at least 1.5 hours per day. The internationals flying into Sydney will be grinding before they have even left the airport!

And it’s not just Sydney that attracts large crowds for big gay events. Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival in January attracts 160,000 people over the three-week schedule of 150 events. Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Canberra and Tasmania also have large annual Pride celebrations.

ŠKODA Monte Carlo is already enjoying tapping into the pink dollar. Their creative saying ‘Small with balls’ both describes the car brilliantly and appeals to the gay audience. Gay and lesbian Australians over-index on spending on new cars; we have fabulous cars instead of kids.

Some brands have built their success completely on pink dollars. Many other brands would benefit greatly from allocating a share of their budget to ensure that this significant group is communicated with in a relevant way.

We believe that to establish brand loyalty with this market advertisers need to have consistent communications across at least 12 months with relevant creative in relevant environments.

Watch this space – pink is the new black!

Ben Mulcahy
BY Ben Mulcahy ON 15 November 2011
Ben Mulcahy connects brands with the pink dollar. He is CEO of Pink Media Group, Australia’s gay and lesbian media network, representing gay and lesbian advertising opportunities across Australia and New Zealand. Ben is also managing director of Pink Rewards, Australia’s gay and lesbian shopping website, and marketing director of Pink Financial Group, gay and lesbian finance specialist.