Pulse: It Takes a Village

How one gay-oriented tourism commercial caffeinated a neighborhood.

Brett Collier and Gary Tidmore like to say their Gayborhood coffee shop is like Cheers, where everybody knows your name. On a hot summer day, it seems apt: A klatch of regulars sip drinks on the terrace; the barista greets customers by name. “It’s gay, it’s straight, it’s young, it’s old,” says Brett. And all of it is thanks to a commercial.

Well, sorta. Back in March 2005, Brett and Gary were living in Wisconsin, searching for a place to move, when a video ad on gophila.com grabbed their attention. It featured a man in Colonial garb writing a love letter. After he pressed his sweetheart to join him in Philadelphia, the commercial revealed that the recipient of the letter wasn’t some bonnet-topped vixen, but a man. The tagline: “Get your history straight and your nightlife gay.”

While the Village Coffee House may be the most conspicuous benefit of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp.’s much-discussed strategy to target gay tourists, it’s far from the only one. Over the past three years, GPTMC has spent about $1 million on the campaign, but the return on that money has been impressive. For every dollar spent on gay-oriented marketing, the GPTMC says, the city got back $153 in spending on hotels, shopping, dining and more.

In fact, the campaign has worked so well that the Travel Industry Association of America recently named it the most successful domestic ad campaign of the year. Says GPTMC’s Jeff Guaracino, “We tapped into a niche market that was pretty much untouched before.”