"The L Word," a new series on the Showtime cable TV network, wanted a vehicle to use on the show. Its producers called Subaru of America Inc. and got a Forester wagon.
Product placement by automakers on TV shows is nothing new. But "The L Word" is not a traditional program. Showtime calls it "a relationship drama about the lives and loves of a group of Los Angeles lesbians."
That combination of show and automaker might seem odd to some. But not to Subaru, and not to the gay and lesbian communities to which the company has marketed for more than a decade.
Subaru even has an advertising agency, Moon City Productions in New York City, that handles only its ads aimed at gay and lesbian consumers.
In studying its buyers about 10 years ago, Subaru found that an unusually large share of owners in Northampton, Mass., were women. It conducted a focus group and discovered that many of them were lesbians, says John Nash, president of Moon City.
"These women were practically commercials for Subaru," Nash says. "They said they bought the cars because of their reliability and ruggedness, and were recommending them."
So Subaru asked, Nash says, "why not speak to them in the first person?"
The initial advertising aimed at gay customers was in local newspapers. But the campaign quickly expanded into national publications. The ads weren't overt but used slogans such as "Be Brand True" and "Get Out and Stay Out."