Philadelphia to Air Gay-Targeted Travel Ad

A man in colonial dress waiting by Independence Hall (search) rebuffs an interested female's pass and instead gives his bouquet of flowers to his male lover in one of the nation's first gay-targeted television commercials.

The 30-second spot, which airs for the first time Wednesday in Philadelphia and will be seen around the country, ends with the tag line: "Come to Philadelphia. Get your history straight and your nightlife gay."

"This is an invitation, that you (gays) are welcome here, because of what Philadelphia is and what Philadelphia has to offer, and because we have a strong gay community," said Meryl Levitz, president and chief executive of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (search), which is sponsoring the ad campaign.

"And we're not saying it's a gay destination; it's a gay-friendly destination."

The man in the commercial is seen writing a letter by candlelight to his "dearest beloved" and asks to meet at Independence Hall. After an interested woman passes by without even a nod, the man's male partner appears.

As the scene plays out, a narrator says: "Philadelphia and its countryside has a long history of making everyone feel welcome and free." The word Philadelphia is shown in a rainbow of colors.

The commercial will play on channels such as Bravo, MTV, VH1 and Style in Comcast Corp. cable markets nationwide.

The commercial is the first by a destination -- such as a city or resort -- to target a gay audience, said Mike Wilke, executive director of the Commercial Closet Association, a nonprofit group that tracks gay representation in ads.

It is also only the fourth gay-targeted television commercial, he said. The first two were for cruise lines in the late 1990s; the third was last year by the travel Web site Orbitz, Wilke said.

"It's still unexpected on television to see a general advertiser reach out to a niche group like the gay community, so I think it will stand out," Wilke said. "What's nice is they're not trying to sell themselves like other destinations have (in print ads) by simply saying 'We're gay-friendly.' It's playing up one of its natural advantages, which is the history of the city."

Levitz said the commercial cost about $75,000 to produce, about half as much as it would normally cost. Actors donated their time and the advertising agency that produced the spot donated most of its services, she said.

The commercial is one of three the tourism agency is debuting Wednesday: one commercial is aimed at blacks, and one is for a general audience.

The tourism agency has targeted, black, Hispanic, and female travelers in past campaigns. It began a campaign to attract gay travelers in November.