No longer considered a narrow niche, corporate America is waking up to the enormous opportunity of marketing to gays and lesbians, whose buying power is set to exceed $835 billion by 2011, according to The Gay and Lesbian Market in the U.S., a new report from market research firm Packaged Facts, in collaboration with the premier gay and lesbian PR and marketing firm Witeck-Combs Communications Inc.

This year's report pegs the 2006 buying power of gays and lesbians at $660 billion, an amount that will increase significantly as the gay and lesbian population, estimated at 15.3 million, grows to a projected 16.3 million in 2011.

Such phenomenal growth and consumer power has not gone unnoticed by major national marketers. LOGO, the new gay and lesbian cable TV outlet, has more than 80 major brands as sponsors, and advertisers are increasingly targeting gays in mainstream media, particularly online, as gays tend to have a higher proclivity towards digital entertainment than their heterosexual counterparts.

The report also tracks the exceptional visibility in the growing numbers of gay and lesbian households and families and provides a comprehensive demographic and regional profile highlighting the core nesting, consumption and travel habits of gay men, women, and couples.

"What we're finding since our last report two years ago is a greater openness among gays and lesbians to share their consumer habits, leisure and media pursuits, and personal/social attitudes," notes Don Montuori, the publisher of Packaged Facts. "At the same time there is a growing trend towards acceptance among the American people which is opening up greater opportunities to market to gays and lesbians in traditional and online venues."

"As trendspotters, we see marketers hungry to acquire more appreciation of gay America's economic standing, as well as more sophistication about what makes gay households like and unlike other households," said Bob Witeck, CEO of Witeck-Combs Communications. "This report should make a profound and timely contribution to these insights."

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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