Patronising, and faintly insulting?

If gays want news I offer the revolutionary concept that they will be better served by buying a newspaper
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The Independent Online

Much excitement is being generated by a large billboard in London's West End showing two attractive women clad in their underwear, kissing, accompanied by the caption "Thank god for women". For some time, publishers have been running beautifully photographed adverts for the shopping and information website, queercompany. One shows two girls hand in hand over the caption "No white wedding. Sorry mum". In another a smart middle-aged woman confronts us with the message, "If you think telling your parents that you are queer is hard, try telling your daughter".

Much excitement is being generated by a large billboard in London's West End showing two attractive women clad in their underwear, kissing, accompanied by the caption "Thank god for women". For some time, publishers have been running beautifully photographed adverts for the shopping and information website, queercompany. One shows two girls hand in hand over the caption "No white wedding. Sorry mum". In another a smart middle-aged woman confronts us with the message, "If you think telling your parents that you are queer is hard, try telling your daughter".

Queercompany has been funded with £3.5m from a Norwegian oil company and is the latest in a series of websites trying to attract advertisers by targeting specific groups. Although Henrietta Morrison and Dominic Richards, its founders, claim they want "to offer a sense of belonging" to gay people, let us not confuse ethics and social purpose with hard-headed business goals. They have also said: "We aim to become a one-stop shop for the discerning queer consumer."

To some, these posters of lesbians herald the breaking of the last big taboo in advertising. But isn't the whole premise of queercompany distinctly shaky? The £1m marketing venture seeks to attract 450,000 users to the queercompany site in its first year, and the advertisers need them to be affluent. Although calling yourself queer may sound provocative and appealing to banks who seek to cash in on the pink pound, is it going to pull in the punters?

Other targeted websites have had mixed success. Blackserve folded, while Darkerthanblue.com, an entertainment site which appeals regardless of the colour of your skin, thrives. Totallyjewish.com is a hit, based on events and a common belief.

All the gay people I've asked find the concept of queercompany patronising and faintly insulting. While I applaud the stylish nature of the adverts I would find it more encouraging if this kind of imagery was used to sell to the mainstream. Isn't partitioning gays as a special-needs group wanting their own news, travel, style and gossip sites, just too retrogressive?

Not wishing to be judgmental, and intrigued by the concept of queer news, I logged on. Disappointingly, queer news seems to be very little different from straight news, except there's less of it. Last Thursday one of the headlines was "Seven killed in website shooting". But this didn't tell me who was gay - the victims or their alleged assailant? The other headlines concerned fare increases on the railways, snow, and surprise, surprise, "Giant kissing lesbians stop traffic", a news story about their own billboard. Twenty-four hours later queer news seemed to have altered very little, with giant lesbians and a fares crisis still the only items.

If gays want news I offer the revolutionary concept that they will be better served, along with everyone else, by buying a newspaper.

When it comes to style the information is no better - a load of piffle claiming "the biggest fashion prize of 2000 belonged to a very simple concept - the logo". Maybe other sites, say about mortgages, offer more practical advice. But what gay people want is the best mortgage on offer regardless of whether or not a firm is gay-friendly. Claiming your travel section features hotels that welcome queers is also another way of highlighting that others do not. It all sounds pretty desperate to me.

We live in a culture where a gay chat-show host such as Graham Norton is successful through appealing to the mainstream, and where declaiming one's sexuality should not seem essential. Dressing up a commercial venture such as queercompany as the benchmark of political correctness is not only cynical, it is doomed to fail. Everyone benefits more from a mixed economy, while this company seems to stick gays back in the ghetto. Nice ads, shame about the people behind them.

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