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Ritz takes a bite out of holiday ad space with LGBTQ-inclusive commercial

As part of its "Where There's Love, There's Family" campaign, Ritz's parent company is donating to the It Gets Better Project, which supports queer youth.

A new holiday-themed commercial from Ritz crackers features a gay couple as part of a message about the beauty of chosen families.

Released this week, "Where There's Love, There's Family" opens with a series of vignettes of people yearning for connection — a young gay man texting his mother to ask “Can we talk?," a child staying in a homeless shelter over Christmas, and a grandmother unable to celebrate the holidays with her family.

As the ad continues, a person with a beard applies lipstick before welcoming the young gay man from the opening vignette into a festive gathering with other LGBTQ partygoers. The grandmother puts out a tray of hors d'oeuvres at her retirement home, and the girl in the homeless shelter shares a Ritz cracker with a man across the table from her.

“The holidays are about spending time with family,” a voice-over says. “Whether it’s the one you’re born into, or the one you make.”

Mondelēz, Ritz’s parent company, said in a statement that the commercial “sets out to remind consumers that there is strength and love in togetherness, and a blood relation isn't the only way to define family.”

"At a time when our families may be strained as a result of social distancing, political tensions or personal orientations and identities, the Ritz brand's campaign is intended to encourage Americans to help build a more accepting world and welcome in those that may be feeling disconnected or alone," Patty Gonzalez, the company’s senior director of marketing, said in the statement.

Produced by Virginia-based advertising firm The Martin Agency, the spot is inclusive in its casting, as well — featuring two gay men of color and transgender and nonbinary extras.

"During casting, it became apparent to us how closely linked the actors' personal experiences were to those they were portraying, making our message about inclusion and belonging that much more palpable and powerful," Sara Kuhs, creative director of The Martin Agency, said in a release.

As part of its "Where There's Love, There's Family" campaign, Mondelēz is donating $50,000 to the It Gets Better Project, a global movement to imbue LGBTQ youth with hope; the homeless advocacy group Invisible People; and Hispanic Star, which showcases the Latino community’s contributions to the United States.

It’s not the first time Mondelēz, which owns Nabisco, has crafted an inclusive campaign for one of its snack brands: Last month, a limited-edition rainbow-colored Oreo pack was released in partnership with Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. An accompanying short, “Proud Parent,” portrayed a young woman bringing her girlfriend home to meet her parents — and her father’s struggle to be affirming and supportive.

Launched in January, Oreo’s #ProudParent campaign aimed “to shine a spotlight on the powerful impact love & acceptance can have on LGBTQ+ youth,” Mondelēz said in a statement.

Other brands have used the holiday season to share support for the LGBTQ community. One of the spots in Etsy’s new “Gift Like You Mean It” campaign features a Black gay couple visiting family for Christmas and receiving a personalized ornament for their tree.

Last year, hair care brand Pantene and LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD released “Coming Home Should Be BEAUTIFULGBTQ,” with members of the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles singing “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”

Also in 2019, H&M’s “Moments in Between” featured two women flirting in a laundromat and a gay male couple kissing under the mistletoe as Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” played.

But these campaigns are fueled by more than just the holiday spirit: LGBTQ Americans have an estimated $1 trillion in spending power, according to veteran marketing strategist Bob Witeck. These ads also reach a large universe of non-gay consumers that are very supportive, Witeck told NBC News.

“Some of these legacy brands have been around for 50, 100, 150 years or more,” he said. “Adding LGBTQ representation suggests your brand is contemporary. Younger generations expect brands to be reflective of their values, and it’s an easy way to do it.”

This year, there’s also an abundance of gay-themed Christmas movies, including Hallmark Channel’s “The Christmas House,” Hulu’s “Happiest Season” and Lifetime’s “The Christmas Set Up.”

“The holidays can be a particularly difficult time for LGBTQ people, as many are afraid to travel back to nonaffirming homes or may feel isolated from their chosen families,” said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis, who praised Ritz’s "Where There's Love, There's Family" campaign as “a powerful example of how brands and media can step up and tell LGBTQ stories not just during Pride Month, but all year round.”

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