When Lady Gaga announced a deluxe edition of her album would be made available exclusively at Target stores, we immediately perked up. How could the Au courant Queen supreme of all things gay ally herself with a company that had been acting decidedly un-ally-like last year? Does a $150,000 donation to rabidly anti-gay (Re: Homeboy donated money to a Christian rock band that sings about killing homos. Yeah, that kind of anti-gay.) gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer ring any bells?. More troubling than the donation itself was Target’s refusal to make a matching donation to an LGBT non-profit in the midst of the public backlash.
Gaga sat down with Billboard magazine recently as the music industry charting company was celebrating Born This Way becoming the 1,000 song to hit number one on their charts. Damn, Gina! Gaga, a self-described student of fame, used the opportunity to move the spotlight just a little to the left and discuss how the Target team up came to be.
“That discussion was one of the most intense conversations I’ve ever had in a business meeting,” Gaga says. “Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGBT charity groups and begin to reform and make amends for the mistakes they’ve made in the past…our relationship is hinged upon their reform in the company to support the gay community and to redeem the mistakes they’ve made supporting those groups.”
The reality may be a bit more complicated than that, however. Target VP of communications Dustee Jenkins spoke with Billboard at length — the full interview transcript is available at Billboard.biz — expressing Target’s excitement to be working with Lady Gaga and portraying the controversial donations as more of a lack of procedural oversight than anything else.
Target’s Public Relations VP on Lady Gaga, LGBT Initiatives
Jenkins says to that end, Target has created a new “policy committee” to review such matters. The committee doesn’t include Steinhafel and has yet to have its first quarterly meeting, but Jenkins directed Billboard to a page on Target’s corporate site that had “in the last week or two” posted new guidelines for Target’s political contributions.
To be clear, Target is not all bad news for the LGBT community. Jenkins noted a recent interview with Target director of enterprise strategy Daniel Duty, an openly gay employee who spoke to Dot429.com about what a great employer Target was for gay professionals. And Jenkins also mentioned that Target had already earmarked “almost a half-million dollars” to spend on various organizations within the LGBT community, name-checking Out and Equal Workplace, as well as local Minnesota groups such as Twin Cities Pride and Project 515.
Without a doubt, those dollars will be cherished and put to good use by those organizations. But in the world of corporate cause spending, it’s worth contextualizing that figure. Jenkins says Target spends $3 million per week on community causes, which means its spend on LGBT issues represents roughly less than 2% of that budget.
Lady Gaga Claims 1,000th Hot 100 No. 1 with ‘Born This Way’
And as with most large companies, political donations are a complicated calculus of company identity and strategic business interests. Case in point: Best Buy, another partner to the music industry, also donated $100,000 to MN Forward; Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn said on his blog to employees, “In our quest to focus on jobs and the economy, we’ve disappointed and confused some employees and customers. I’m taking it to heart.”
Jenkins says she “didn’t think” Gaga’s feedback had resulted in direct policy change, but that she was one of many voices Target had considered in order to better understand issues concerning the LGBT community. For example, Jenkins cited a recent meeting in San Francisco between LGBT groups and Target executives, but declined to provide greater detail. “We very much appreciated the conversation and the dialogue with [Lady Gaga] and her team all along the way,” Jenkins says. “They’ve been a wonderful partner in this and they certainly shared their feedback.”
Jenkins says Target is now committed to being more “thoughtful” — she used the word 11 times in a half-hour interview — about the issue of political donations. But when asked directly, she couldn’t guarantee that Target wouldn’t end up making future donations to candidates with anti-gay voting records. “No,” Jenkins says, “but what I can say is that we’re going to use our policy committee to ensure that we’re being more thoughtful.”
They may well want to be, as Gaga will undoubtedly hear from her beloved fans if that thoughtfulness doesn’t present itself. She repeatedly mentions her love for her fans and her desire to “assault” the senses of mainstream America with a pro-LGBT sensibility. “It’s so important to me, please, to clear up any misconceptions or concerns,” she says of the Target relationship. “Whatever you can do to assure my fans and the gay community that I have their back, please do.”
So does this mean that it’s safe to begin shopping at Target once more? Eh…we’re going to hold our breath on this one for a bit. It’s fantastic that Gaga has target being more thoughtful about the implications of their corporate donations, but at this stage in the game, that’s all it is yet: Thinking. Billboard points out that less than 2% of Target’s charitable giving is going to LGBT groups. We’d like to see that figure exponentially higher. When the Born This Way LP drops, we’ll be going with the non-Target version.
With that said, we hope that Lady Gaga’s chain isn’t being pulled by Target executives, and that they put their money where their mouth is. Except, isn’t that what got them into this problem in the first place? A willingness to make donations to causes the company supports? Perhaps Target’s problem isn’t a money/mouth conundrum, but a money/morals one. The company is certainly actively seeking out LGBT spokespeople, like Gaga’s new exclusive release-mate Ricky Martin, who has his own deal with the red and white bullseye.
You’ve got our attention, Target. Don’t let us down (again).
Will you be picking up the Lady Gaga Target exclusive deluxe album?