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, and

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.