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Marketing the Rainbow

This article was last updated on Mar 3, 2023


Unilever owns over 400 brands and had a turnover in 2020 of 51 billion euros. The company has done some corporate and multi-brand campaigns for Marketing the Rainbow, but the individual brands also had their own campaigns. Here is a look at the ice cream brands Gaytime, Kingis and Klondike. 

Also check out Magnum, Ben & Jerry's, Cornettto, food, and in non-food: Axe/Lynx, Dove, cosmetics and detergents.

Golden Gaytime

Golden Gaytime is a popular ice cream snack that is made and distributed by the Streets/Wall's confectionery company in Australia, and was first released in 1959

(fun fact: Wall's started out as a sausage manufacturer). Its name has survived intact regardless, or because, of the possible homosexual connotations in modern decades. The company appears to embrace the camp name by retaining the tagline from the 1980s, "It's hard to have a Gaytime on your own". The in-home boxes feature the words "4 delicious chances to have a gay time". The double meaning of the name is highlighted in The Bedroom Philosopher song "Golden Gaytime".

Controversy in Indonesia

In spite of the fact that the name does not refer to the gay population, there was a controversy in 2018 in Indonesia. Social-media posts featuring a Rainbow Gaytime ice cream bar surfaced. This was not an

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Golden Gaytime Icecream Project

Sydneysider Jesse James McElroy is the founder of the Golden Gaytime Icecream Project who first famously campaigned Streets to introduce the 1.25L tubs - which in fact really happened. He then created a "Gaynetto" (a hybrid between the Golden Gaytime and Cornetto) prototype and posted his design on his popular Facebook page a few years ago. Not much later he received a letter from Streets informing him of the brand’s decision to create the Gaynetto.

The Rainbow Gaytime, however, has not been produced. 

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official product but rather a tribute concept created a year earlier by Australian fan Jesse McElroy for Sydney’s Mardi Gras festival and in support of marriage equality. This went viral in Indonesia, and several ugly comments followed, together with calls to boycott Wall’s.

Unilever sought to put the fire by explaining that the brand is not even sold in the country (oh, and the product does not exist). It went on to say the company has been in Indonesia for 84 years and that Unilever “respect and uphold the cultural and religious [muslim] values and norms” of the country.


Kingis Ice Cream - Have a Big Heart - 2010, Finland

A Finnish commercial that tells a whole story in a nutshell. I like where that is going...

Years later in the UK, Grand Tour host Richard Hammond caused some controversy with his 'joke': "I don't eat ice cream, I think it's something to do with being straight," he said on the show - to cheers and applause from the studio audience.

LGBT rights charity Stonewall condemned Hammond's comment. "Stonewall trains teachers to tackle homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic slurs like these, so to hear this sort of language on television is extremely disappointing and sends the wrong message to young people," a statement read.


Classic American ice cream brand Klondike had two 'gay vague' commercials: Biker Tutu in 2000 and Bear Sandwich in 2010.

Petition storm
In 2021 someone came up with the idea to start a petition to change the name. This action received national attention – because the product is considered 'Australian heritage' – but there were only 1,000 signatures. However, there were no less than 62 (!) counteractions on for the preservation of the name, which together received support more than 25,000 times.

Note: this was in the middle of the corona crisis. An important thing to worry about!

Unilever commented: "Over the past few weeks, the Gaytime team has taken the time to listen and reflect. Why? Because we stand for inclusion, celebrate diversity and welcome meaningful conversations around these values. We believe that in order to truly listen and understand, we must consider all voices. After these conversations and reflections, and with the support of ACON – one of Australia's leading LGBT+ organizations – and many other voices in the community, we are proud to keep the Golden Gaytime name. There's a lot of history and pride behind Gaytime, and we've been inspiring a sense of community for many years. Going forward, we want to continue to bring communities together and create a more diverse, inclusive and equal world for all.”

The term 'gay vague' (coined by my American colleague Mike Wilke of AdRespect) already indicates that this is not about real Marketing the Rainbow, but that the men in the commercial are pretended to be gay 'for fun' , or acting 'unmanly'. So it's not always fun or positive.

“Fun” fact: In 2016, British Grand Tour presenter Richard Hammond caused some controversy with his 'joke': 'I don't eat ice cream, I think it has something to do with being straight,' he said on the show - under cheers and applause from the studio audience. LGBT organization Stonewall condemned Hammond's comment. "Stonewall is training teachers to deal with homophobic, biphobic and transphobic slurs such as these, so to hear this kind of language on television is extremely disappointing and sends the wrong message to young people," the statement said.

You see that not only the globally famous Unilever ice cream brands have looked at LGBT consumers or gay themes. Local brands also go Marketing the Rainbow in Australia, Finland and the US – and often in a fun way.

Case study: Unilever icecreams


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