DETROIT FREE PRESS
December 6, 2005
Ford to pull ads from publications that cater to gays
Automaker says it didn’t cave in to conservative group
by Michael Ellis and Kortney Stringer
Free Press Business Writers
Ford Motor Co. said Monday that its Jaguar and Land Rover brands will stop advertising in magazines that cater to gay and lesbian people, but the automaker denied that it struck a secret deal with a conservative Christian group to pull its ads to avert a boycott.
Ford’s denial came only hours after 17 gay and lesbian groups said they expect to meet with Ford this week to discuss a rumored confidential agreement between Ford and the 2-million-member American Family Association to halt advertising.
Ford said it has held discussions with the AFA, but the automaker’s move to stop advertising the Jaguar and Land Rover brands in the publications was a business decision and unrelated to a threatened boycott. The Ford, Mercury and Lincoln brands don’t advertise in gay and lesbian publications and don’t plan to do so, said a Ford spokesman.
In June, Tupelo, Miss.-based AFA delayed until Dec. 1 a planned boycott of Ford products in order to give auto dealers time to persuade Ford to change the way it advertises and funds gay- and lesbian-related events.
“There’s no confidential agreement with us and AFA,” Ford spokesman Mike Moran said. “We haven’t stopped advertising across the board, but we’re trying to look at it from a business perspective.”
A Ford memo sent to a Ford workers group called Gay Lesbian Or Bisexual Employees (GLOBE) said that Volvo has decided to advertise directly to the homosexual community, but other brands have decided against that avenue.
“We reserve the right to advertise our brands and products wherever we think it makes business sense,” the memo said. “This is something we spoke very candidly about with the AFA.”
Moran said Jaguar and Land Rover plan to streamline their advertising next year. “They have found the business conditions to be rather difficult and they are feeling pressure on their marketing budgets for 2006,” he said.
The AFA called off the planned boycott last week when the 6-month moratorium expired. By early June, more than 110,000 people had signed a pledge not to buy Ford vehicles.
“They’ve heard our concerns. They have responded, we think in a very positive way,” AFA Founder and Chairman Donald E. Wildmon said on the group’s Web site. “Obviously there are some small matters of difference, as people will always have, but generally speaking we are pleased with the results.”
The AFA’s criticism of Ford went far beyond advertising. The group had accused Ford of “extensive promotion of homosexuality” on a Web site, www.BoycottFord.com, which has now been taken down.
Wildmon said that Ford “leads the way” in redefining family to include homosexual marriage, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to support homosexual groups, sponsoring gay pride parades, and forcing managers to attend diversity training to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.
Earlier this year, Ford, General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG pledged $250,000 each to a new gay community center in Ferndale. Ford also donated up to $1,000 per vehicle to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation for each Jaguar or Land Rover bought by a member of the group. All three Detroit automakers recognize same-sex partners in benefits packages to employees.Moran said he was not aware of any changes in Ford’s donations to gay groups.
Spencer Moore, spokesman for PlanetOut Inc., a San Francisco entertainment company that operates Web sites and publishes some of the nation’s biggest magazines for the gay, lesbian and transgendered community, which operates Web sites such as Gay.com and the Advocate and Out magazines, said as of Monday afternoon Ford hadn’t pulled its ads. Land Rover and Jaguar buy about 36 pages each year in the Advocate and Out magazines, Moore said.
Gay, lesbian and transgender organizations from across the country had a conference call Monday afternoon to come up with a plan to formally request more information from the Dearborn-based automaker, said Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the Detroit-based Triangle Foundation.”We’re hoping that Ford is not abandoning its principles in this matter … and caving into the AFA,” said Montgomery, whose group supports civil rights and antiviolence efforts. “They have great policies in place. They treat their gay and lesbian employees very well.”
AFA couldn’t be reached for comment Monday evening.
Jeff Stoltman, a Wayne State University marketing professor, said the move by Ford could backfire.
“They’d be well advised to create the impression this decision to shift advertising dollars is not linked,” with the AFA.
Otherwise, Stoltman said, “If they were trying to avoid a boycott, they raise a strong possibility of a boycott from another direction.”