J.C. Penney has a new look for father’s day, sort of. The clothes look close to what you might imagine, but instead of a straight-from-central-casting suburban family with a father, mother, and children, the company went with two dads: real-life couple Cooper Smith and Todd Koch, along with their two children, Mason and Claire.
The reaction was immediate: One Million Moms, who’d protested J.C .Penney previously for choosing Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson, issued a statement against the ad and requested that offended customers return their copies.
With this, as well as the lesbian couple featured in their Mother’s Day catalog, J.C. Penney continues to raise questions about what happens when corporations take political stances, perhaps against stockholder or customer wishes. Conversely, there are companies like Target, which has raised the ire of gay-rights advocates by donating to politicians with anti-gay platforms. Target has recently begun selling a pro-gay T-shirt to raise support for a group working to defeat a ban on gay marriage in Minnesota.
Gay partners Cooper Smith and Todd Koch appeared on WFAA 8 (Dallas/Fort Worth's ABC affiliate) to discuss being featured in a J.C. Penney advertisement:
What’s a conscientious customer do with his or her money based on such mixed signals, and with the onslaught of support that gay activism has seen, how can companies ignore the fact that large demographics profit? What does it take for a brand to take a political stance?
Jon Cohen, vice president, general manager, Innovation Protocol, a Los Angeles-based brand consultancy firm
Robert Klara, staff writer, Adweek; covers brands and marketing; writes a column on advertising history