Hold On, Let’s Not Get Too Excited About Tiffany & Co.’s Same-Sex Ad

(Courtesy Tiffany & Co.)
Jan 14, 2015 at 1:55 PM ET

For those who haven’t seen it, Tiffany & Co. recently debuted its new engagement ad campaign, “Will You?” It comprises beautiful photos showing maniacally happy couples, including a pair who may have—gasp!—had a child out of wedlock. But the image that’s getting the most attention is of two dapper, coiffed gay guys hanging out on a West Village/Brooklyn Heights-issue stoop.

Let’s get one thing clear right out of the gate: It’s great that the jeweler released an ad featuring a same-sex couple—a first for the 178-year-old company. And the company is getting some hearty praise for their efforts. Elle thinks it’s “exciting,” Perez Hilton claims it to be “everything and more,” MTV says it’s “beautiful” and the real-life couple “adorable,” and Cosmopolitan chimes in with “Awww.” Twitter also got a case of the warm and fuzzies, as well as the odd hard-on.

Even Miley Cyrus is getting in on the action.

Tiffany & Co. spokesperson Linda Buckley was quick to confirm the company’s new inclusive stance, telling Elle, “Nowadays, the road to marriage is no longer linear, and true love can happen more than once with love stories coming in a variety of forms. The Tiffany engagement ring is the first sentence of the story that a couple will write together as they create a life that is deeply intimate and exceptional, which is the message we hope to convey through this campaign.”

Sure, great. Tiffany hasn’t done a bad thing here; it has done a good thing. But should we really be so quick to offer a firm pat on the back and gentle tears of gratitude? After all, the company is just doing its job, which is to pull out every stop to hawk its wares. And business isn’t what it used to be. Days after the ads were released, the company announced a disappointing holiday sales period—which is significant, seeing that one-third of all engagements occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. As a result, company shares dropped 11 percent.

The jeweler has also been actively courting a younger demographic of late. Last August, it launched the new Tiffany T line—describing it as “unapologetically modern“—under the direction of recently appointed Design Director Francesca Amfitheatrof. In November, the company held a party in honor of the collection in New York, where guests including Olivia Palermo and Karlie Kloss were encouraged to tweet photos using the hashtag #MyTiffanyT.

The gays are the obvious next step, and it’s not just Tiffany & Co. that’s shilling to this audience. Banana Republic released ads last year featuring Nate Berkus and fiancé Jeremiah Brent. Target had one in September with two gay dads.

But there are a couple of questions the queer community needs to ask itself: Are we really that desperate to be marketed to? And is the company being all that brave? Don’t forget that Tiffany and its corporate peers are for-profit entities. It’s also worth noting that support for marriage equality in the U.S. is at an all-time high; last year’s Gallup poll shows that 55 percent of Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage, and that figure climbs to 78 percent for young adults.

Then there is the social impact to consider. In terms of the LGBTQ spectrum, choosing to portray two white cis guys—as all of the aforementioned companies have—is playing it safe. If a company really wanted to be inclusive and take a stand against marginalization, it’d feature an out trans model, preferably of color.

Of course, any representation of non-hetero lives is important. Queers are underrepresented in the media, and seeing a likeness of oneself can be an affirmation of identity. Still, I don’t imagine that many kids beyond the fiercest little queens were looking at Tiffany ads of yore and feeling a need for inclusion. Three weeks ago, Lynx Australia—Axe’s regional brand name—screened an ad for its hair styling range that included two guys kissing. The company is geared toward a young male demographic, and the spot is therefore more likely to have a positive effect on gay youth. However, it didn’t get nearly as much attention.

Again, Tiffany & Co. is not a bad company, and featuring two gay dudes in its advertising is great. Golf claps. It’s just that amid all the applause, we need to stop and consider the motivations, and perhaps not be overly grateful for the company making such an obvious and calculated step in the right direction.