NEW YORK -- A new TV commercial features a good-looking young woman on a beach vacation lounging next to a good-looking young man. He bemoans the glare on his iPad and she fills him in on the Kindle Paperwhite's sun-friendly screen.
He clicks to buy one himself and suggests they celebrate with a drink.
"My husband's bringing me a drink right now," chirps she.
"So is mine," smiles he as they turn and wave at their male loved ones sitting together at a tiki bar.
Welcome to the latest in gay imagery in mainstream advertising -- nearly two decades after Ikea broke ground in the U.S. with a TV spot featuring a gay couple shopping for a dining room table. That commercial ran only once in New York and Washington, D.C., and was pulled after bomb threats to Ikea stores.
Today, gay and lesbian parents and their kids are featured -- along with pitchwoman Ellen DeGeneres -- in J.C. Penney ads. Same-sex couples have their own, advertised wedding registries at Macy's. Two happy young men sit together eating at a dining table, with wine and romantic candlelight, in a section of a Crate & Barrel catalog marked "Us & Always."
Traditionally lagging behind TV and film content in terms of LGBT inclusion, advertisers in this country are facing considerably less trouble than they used to when taking on gay themes, observers said. Penney's rebuffed critics and launched a lesbian-focused catalog ad for Mother's Day that the company followed with a two-dads family for Father's Day.
Though Crate & Barrel declined comment for this story and Amazon didn't respond to email requests for the same about the Kindle ad, LGBT-focused marketers and monitors think the Mad Men and Women of today's Madison Avenue and the companies that employ them might finally be getting it.
"They're no longer just targeting gay and lesbian people. They're targeting people like my mom, who want to know that a company embraces and accepts their gay and lesbian family members, friends and neighbors," said Rich Ferraro, a spokesman for the media watchdog group the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
"Things have changed significantly in terms of risk and reward," said Bob Witeck, who consults for Fortune 100 companies on LGBT marketing and communications strategies. "Businesses don't view this as a risk model any longer."
Particularly, he said, when it comes to portraying marriage.
"Marriage, at one time, was the third rail," Mr. Witeck said. "That terrified companies. Most of this happened when the president said he supported marriage equality."
Mark Elderkin, CEO of the Gay Ad Network, which focuses on the LGBT niche market, said mainstream gay messaging has "passed the tipping point, where there's more to gain than there is to lose" for advertisers.
While there are groups of "vocal antagonists," he said, more advertisers bolstered by broader media exposure for gay characters and story lines in TV shows and movies have explored nontraditional families and included LGBT imagery in "normal" settings.
"It seems to be moving quickly forward. It's companies that want to be more on the leading edge, more for the next generation of this country," Mr. Elderkin said. "It's not your parents' brand anymore. It's your brand and your kids' brand."