Retailer J.C. Penney has released a Father's Day print ad featuring a real-life same-sex couple. The ad features Todd Koch and Cooper Smith hugging their two young children. The copy reads, "What makes Dad so cool? He's the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver -- all rolled into one. Or two."
The ad is the latest example of J.C. Penney's commitment to include the gay community. Earlier this year, the retailer came under fire for its decision to employ the openly gay talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres as its spokeswoman. A conservative group, One Million Moms, criticized the retailer for abandoning "traditional values." However J.C. Penney stuck with Ellen, releasing a statement that read: "Ellen represents the values of our company."
The two dads ad has inspired a slew of comments across the Web. Most appeared to be supportive of J.C. Penney. One person wrote, "I haven't shopped there in years. I'm about to change that!" Another posted, "Kudos JCP. If I can get over my disdain for malls, I just might have to stop by your store now and then." A Gawker commenter wrote, "I'm pretty sure J.C. Penney did this on purpose to get more attention. Before the whole Ellen thing, when was the last time you heard about J.C. Penney, other than the fact that they were failing. Now they're getting all this free press. Smart move JCP!" We first spotted the ad over at ThinkProgress.org.
The mostly positive feedback is much needed by J.C. Penney. Several weeks ago, the retailer released quarterly earnings that sent its stock tumbling. CEO Ron Johnson's strategy has been to implement every-day low prices instead of frequent sales and discounts, but shoppers haven't been buying it. Total sales fell 20% and gross margins and foot traffic also dropped, according to Yahoo! Finance's Daily Ticker. Johnson came to J.C. Penney in November from Apple, where he ran the hugely successful Apple Stores, so big things were expected of him.
This isn't the first time a big mass brand has released a same-sex advertisement. Two years ago, McDonald's released a commercial in France that featured a teen boy flirting on the phone with his boyfriend. The tagline reads, "Come as you are" in French. "We wanted to show society the way it is today, without judging. There's obviously no problem with homosexuality in France today," Nathalie Legarlantezec, a McDonald's spokesperson, told French media.
Oddly, there was also at least one case of a gay-rights group being upset. Shortly after the ad aired, the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce severed its ties to McDonald's. CBS News reported that "the letter calls the French ad 'blatant geographic pandering to the LGBT community ... while McDonald's has continued to distance itself from the LGBT segment in the United States.'"