Amtrak targets GLBT customers in ad campaign

A Nashville talent agency has played a major role in Amtrak's new multimedia campaign targeted toward GLBT customers. This campaign, which will include print ads in GLBT publications, will be the first for this demographic.

Nashville's BNA Talent Group, which promotes itself as the first GLBT casting division in the region, was hired to oversee casting on the campaign. Owner Josh Robbins was originally contacted by the Atlanta-based ad agency, Images, U.S.A., to assist in the effort. He spent five days in Washington, D.C. this summer seeking talent for the project. Robbins says his focus on gay talent gave his company an advantage among other talent agencies in larger markets.

"Several agencies wouldn't help because they didn't have the resources or the talent available to do the project," he said. "It was great that they trusted a very small agency located on Music Row in Nashville."

During his time in Washington, D.C., Robbins sought to advance Amtrak's goal of ensuring the GLBT community was well-represented. To find models for the project, he visited local bars and restaurants, and researched ads in the city's GLBT publication, The Washington Blade. He estimates that about twenty people were selected for the shoot.

Amtrak has allocated $250,000 towards the campaign, which is funded through this fiscal year, and is likely to continue in the next one. The rail service, which is partially government-funded has targeted other minority groups in the past. Amtrak allocates about 10 percent of its media budget to diversity initiatives, but that amount fluctuates year to year. Robbins considers their focus on the GLBT community as a smart move.

"I believe that we as a community have extreme brand loyalty, and our segment of the population tends to have more disposable income," he said. 

Gay groups such as the Human Rights Campaign have lauded the new ad campaign, but others have expressed outrage. The Family Research Institute, an antigay organization working toward finding a “cure” for homosexuality, has claimed that these new ads are an inappopriate use of public money.

Further financing has not been finalized, but Robbins is optimistic that the campaign will continue. Since his work on the Amtrak campaign, he's fielded calls from gay models and actors across the country. He hopes to continue giving extra exposure to his GLBT clients.

"As an agent, I've worked on hundreds of projects in the past, but this was the most satisfying," Robbins said. "It's important for me to give back and create opportunities for the (gay) community."

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