Philly’s New Gay Tourism Ad Looks Cheap and Dumb

Surely the GPTMC could have done better.

I’m all for Philadelphia’s once-groundbreaking gay tourism campaign, known as “Philadelphia — Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay.”

Since its debut a decade ago, the initiative from the Greater Philadelphia Tourism & Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) has been largely responsible for a huge boost in gay tourists visiting the city.

And Philadelphia was recently named one of the country’s best cities for gay travel by Travel & Leisure. Fabulous!

But I can’t say I’m a fan of the GPTMC’s newest gay tourism commercial, which I first saw on Bravo the other day. (The GPTMC tells me that the ad will air on the LOGO, Bravo and Style channels and will also be shown online at OutTraveler.com, Advocate.com and Out.com.)

Back in August, the New York Times announced that the GPTMC was set to unveil the new TV spot, starring drag queen Miss Richfield 1981, a midwestern native popular on the Provincetown drag circuit.

According to the Times, GPTMC head Meryl Levitz “said the new commercial, to be unveiled at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association convention in Boston in late August, recognizes both the 10th anniversary of Philadelphia’s campaign, and the recent gains in gay rights across the country.”

Well that all sounds marvelous. Unfortunately, the ad doesn’t do either.

There is no mention of the fact that it’s the ten year anniversary of our award-winning gay tourism campaign, which has become a model for other cities around the country. (Would it have hurt to highlight the Travel & Leisure honor?)

And there is no mention of the recent gay rights victories in the United States, unless you’re going to take the position that having a drag queen running up the “Rocky steps” is somehow a “look how far we’ve come” message, which would just be dumb.

Philadelphia has a vibrant, expansive gay scene and plenty of gay-friendly tourism and restaurant options. (Have you heard about the two lesbians who own an entire street?) But the commercial barely celebrates any of that. It paints a very narrow picture of the city, and if not for the iconic landmarks included, this could easily be a promotion for Pittsburgh or Milwaukee.

Instead of showcasing our awesome city and its gay friendliness, the commercial showcases Miss Richfield 1981. But hey, we can’t blame her for that. You stick a drag queen in front of a camera, and we all know what is going to be the center of attention.

Watch the commercial here and decide for yourself:

At least the old ad had a surprise ending:

And I’m not the only one who is not a fan of the new commercial. YouTube commenter “Super Flan” had this to say:

There is a difference with being gay welcoming and liking drag queens. Odd choice to “celebrate” with a clown-ish cartoon and stereotypes. So. you have a bell, Independence Hall, Rocky and restaurants? Is that Phila? Why is it gay friendly or more importantly why should I visit Philadelphia? Appreciate the outreach, but does not tell me anything about why I should visit.

To which someone from the GPTMC responded in the YouTube comments section:

Hi Super Flan, thanks for checking out the commercial. The concept follows our original, ten-year-old campaign – “Philadelphia: Get Your History Straight & Your Nightlife Gay” – it starts with history and follows up with nightlife. Drag is part of Philadelphia’s gay community but the goals of commercial are really to showcase Philadelphia’s attractions, history, nightlife and dining– and hopefully give the viewer a chuckle along the way.

Miss Richfield has been a great partner of ours for a while, and she is a champion for Philadelphia. And while we can’t fit everything into a 30 second commercial, we do hope you’ll check out our website to find out even more about why you should visit.

Still, GPTMC, you could have done better. Much better.

  • btsnyder

    Wow, I couldn’t place my finger on why I disliked this latest campaign, but you hit the nail on the head in every regard. Super-Flan was on top of it too.

  • Robert Fouracre

    Gays are nothing but exhibitionists, look at me, look at me, why does anyone take them serious???

  • Morgan

    I disliked the ad. Anyone can be a drag queen – even straight men can be one. The people who the actor hangs out with can pass for any sexuality. The ad is also not very culturally diverse- with mostly white actors and no actors with visible disabilities. Finally, what about people who are transgendered? This ad forgets about them.

  • williaml

    If we has Putin as our President we would not be having this. Our Chump in Chief in with the rest of the rump rustlers

  • Dennis the Menace

    Even with all of our continual efforts to make the gay lifestyle main stream and to be a normal part of society; our city put out a television commercial with a drag queen??????
    Who approved this gay demeaning degrading commercial??? What is wrong with you people????
    This is crap and ruins all of the efforts put forth to become mainstream people.
    Come on folks, have some common sense and do not undo all of the hard work that is being done to bring us into main stream society.
    Why do we always have to post the extremes of the curve and not the normal folks who live normal day to day lives as normal human beings.
    Is this what we really want to advertise and portray as gay..I seriously doubt it. How about maybe thinking next time?

  • Joe Bob Briggs

    How about an ad like all the other tourist ads but with twist? A same-sex family touring the art museum, their kids having fun at the Franklin Institute, the family is browsing and noshing at the Reading Terminal Market, standing together looking at the Liberty Bell. And just have the text “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” dissolve on to the screen and then “We live those words every day in Philadelphia. Visit us and we will show you how.”