It was the summer of 2003, and I took a chance.
I was running my own advertising and promotion agency and my biggest client was Tylenol. This particular client was very progressive and aggressive, so I knew I could be bold and suggest that we advertise Tylenol PM to the gay market...and that we should support June Pride Month by sponsoring New York's Gay Pride.
"Targeting a brand new market that's never been tapped would generate incremental sales," was my argument to him.
He agreed and I jumped head first into developing advertising and promotion for the very first OTC product to ever support the gay community.
The work was incredibly rewarding both personally and professionally. I was letting go of my fear of being out at work, and I was helping my clients legitimately grow their business.
Couldn't get much better than that!
Of course as a result, I was professionally "outed" by the trade press, when they signaled the importance of the campaign and its "first ever." First ever for me too.
While it would be no big deal today, it was a really big deal back in the day.
I was afraid that I'd lose clients. I had two young children that I was raising, so I had a right to be afraid. Although I was scared, I knew that it was the right thing to do. It was inevitable, to tell you the truth, so I might as well be proactive and take the bull by the horns.
So I'm sure you can imagine the sheer joy I feel when I see so many brands today supporting gay inclusion, marriage equality, and equal rights for all.
Sheer joy is the only way I can describe how I felt when I just recently saw Colgate's first ever gay-inclusive commercial in Mexico. A first for the brand and for the country. Click here to see it.
Sheer pride is how I feel when I see how Target is supporting LGBT rights, perhaps at its own expense. They even have a "Pride Store" within their stores.
Sheer laughter is what I do when I see the new pride-full sneakers from Converse.
And sheer "Cheers!" is what I do when I see Budweiser's extension of their Campaign campaign featuring same-sex marriage. Click here to see it.
I walked by TD Bank and saw that they too are supporting Pride Month. I saw a social post from the employees of Bloomingdale's honoring #Orlando. And at the airport I was greeted with "Happy Pride" as I boarded my flight.
These brands are only a sampling of the brands that are joining the celebration of Gay Pride this month, thank you Mr. President.
I literally never thought I'd see the day...the day when we aren't afraid to say who we are for fear of losing our jobs or putting our families at risk.
Now I realize that we have a long way to go, and we've recently taken a few steps backwards, but Pride Month is all about moving forward, and celebrating that which makes us special.
So I offer a hearty "thanks" to all those brands that help make that happen and continue to support us all.
With a special shout-out to my alma mater, Johnson & Johnson, for showcasing gay dads in their latest work for the brand Johnson's Baby Products. Makes me feel like I've come full circle.