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The Nut & Honey ads. Outlines archives.

Nut & Honey Commercial ad. Outlines archives.

Art Johnston, Linda Henderson, Laurie Dittman and Rick Garcia of CAMMP, with Stroh’s bottles. Outlines archives.

The CAMMP logo. Outlines archives.

Gays started using their consumer and business clout against corporations in full force in the 1970s, through methods such as protests against the media for anti-gay coverage—by the news divisions and by columnists such as Mike Royko and, as perceived by many in those days, Ann Landers ( Landers' later columns were much more balanced on gay issues ) . There were also pickets against gay bars for refusing to allow dancing and for racially motivated ID-carding, and other campaigns. Groups that were focused on proving the strength of the gay dollar included the Tavern Guild of Chicago and the Metropolitan Business Association.

By the mid-1980s, the AIDS crisis sparked activism against corporate greed and against slow government action. Homophobic and AIDS-phobic media and advertising also caused a backlash against corporations. Just as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation ( GLAAD ) was becoming better-known nationally, Chicago activists took charge of anti-gay slights in our own backyard.

The Coalition Against Media/Marketing Prejudice ( CAMMP ) announced in January 1988 that it was CAMMP's Art Johnston, co-owner of Sidetrack bar, wrote a letter to the company in February 1988 asking for an apology and a marketing push to the gay community. As a result, the company took action, and no boycott was necessary.

CAMMP's next action soon followed: a protest against the Kellogg Co. in Battle Creek, Mich., for its TV commercial promoting Nut & Honey cereal, which featured an Old West trail cook threatened with bodily harm when the men for whom he cooks mistakenly believe he has called one of them “honey.” Kellogg did not respond as quickly as the Stroh company, and Chicago activists spent over a year calling for action. Kellogg cut off communication with CAMMP after the company asserted that the ad did not promote violence. CAMMP's Rick Garcia disrupted a 1988 shareholders meeting where shareholders voted 88 percent to 5 percent against pulling their company out of South Africa because of its apartheid laws. “Of course this company doesn't want to pull out of South Africa,” Garcia told Outlines newspaper in May 1988. “It fits perfectly with their attitude toward CAMMP.”

At the April 28, 1989, Kellogg shareholders meeting, Joseph Norton, 70, stood up, said he was a relative of the original Kellogg family, came out as a gay man and criticized the anti-gay ad. CEO Bill LaMothe said the company does not believe in violence and did not agree with the interpretation of the ad. However, the company unveiled a new ad that was more benign. Still the pressure continued.

The highly visible work of CAMMP undoubtedly had an impact beyond just those two campaigns—it likely prevented other anti-gay messages in marketing. In the 2000s, more companies than ever are creating gay-specific images for marketing to the community. Today, only a few ads homophobically depict gays as a joke, rather than targeting them as serious consumers.

From Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City's Gay Community, edited by Tracy Baim, Surrey Books, 2008.

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