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Why Tiffany is now advertising to same-sex couples

As American support for same-sex marriage grows, companies feel more comfortable targeting advertising to these customers.

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As approval for same-sex marriage rises in America, more businesses are openly embracing the LGBT community as a valuable target market.

On Friday, jewelry company Tiffany & Co. kicked off its latest engagement campaign with an ad featuring - for the first time - a real-life gay couple.

The campaign, titled “Will You?,” is the latest effort among brands both local and international to court a small, but growing number of same-sex marriage customers – sometimes at the risk of angering more conservative consumers. Department store chains JC Penney and Macy’s both drew criticism in 2012 after each company included gay couples in their magazine advertisements. Both companies continue to show support for marriage equality in their stores and campaigns.

In 2013, Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz defended same-sex marriage against an investor who complained that the company’s support was hurting profits.

“It’s a free country,” CNN reported Shultz saying at the annual shareholders meeting that year. “You could sell your shares at Starbucks and buy shares in other companies.”

Target, Nike, Microsoft, and Oreo are among other brands that openly support marriage equality in their marketing.

In February 2014, retailer Banana Republic also featured a gay couple in a series of ads for their spring line. The goal of the photos, the company’s creative spokesperson told the New York Times, was “to reflect the world and how we live in a true and genuine way.”

"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," Linda Buckley, Tiffany & Co. VP of North American PR, told ELLE.com in a statement. "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."

Support for marriage equality is hitting new highs in the United States, surveys say: As of 2014, the Pew Research Center places the approval rating for same-sex marriage at 52 percent, up from 37 percent in 2009. And Gallup puts it at 55 percent. Perhaps more significantly, opposition to gay marriage has fallen to 40 percent of those surveryed by Pew (54 percent opposed it in 2009). 

That means businesses marketing to the LGBT community today have a much lower risk of alienating the majority of their customers than just five years ago. In fact, the move is getting mostly positive reviews. 

In addition, 36 states and the District of Columbia now legally allow gay and lesbian couples to marry – which means that “70 percent of Americans live in places where same-sex marriages may be licensed and performed,” The Christian Science Monitor reported Jan. 10.

“The overwhelming tidal wave of court rulings over the last year has put America on the cusp of nationwide marriage equality,” Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign legal director, said in a statement this week. Most recently, the US Supreme Court struck down the ban on same-sex marriage in Florida.

Human Rights Campaign also noted that polls by ABC News/The Washington Post, The New York Times and others show increasing positive support for same-sex marriage – numbers that “continue to grow, with no indication that support will slow down.”

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