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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
Detroit FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITERS
December 6, 2005
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."
Contact MICHAEL ELLIS at 313-222-8784 or email@example.com.
Ford Pulls Some Ads From Gay Press
Move Follows Boycott By a Religious Group
By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 7, 2005; Page D01
Ford Motor Co. said it will stop running ads for its Jaguar and Land Rover brands in the gay press, helping to avoid a confrontation with conservative Christians but setting up a fight with gays and lesbians.
The American Family Association, a conservative religious group, launched a boycott of Ford this year for extending marriage benefits to same-sex couples and giving "thousands of dollars to support homosexual groups and their agenda," the group said in written statement. The group criticized Ford for supporting gay commitment ceremonies and gay pride parades.
Ford spokesman Mike Moran said the move to stop advertising Jaguars and Land Rovers in gay publications such as the Advocate was based on a decision to streamline marketing budgets. Moran would not say what other magazine categories might be affected, citing competitive reasons.
Volvo, another Ford-owned luxury brand, will continue to advertise in gay publications. Ford has not advertised its U.S. brands, which include Ford, Mercury and Lincoln, in gay publications and does not plan to start, Moran said. "We've made it clear that decisions on where Ford brands advertise are made for business reasons, not as a social statement one way or the other," he said.
Ford has focused on niche markets at various times -- for example, trying to reach black families though marketing at churches and by supporting gospel music.
Gay groups denounced Ford's decision as a capitulation to the religious right. "It looks pretty clear that they have bowed to the American Family Association's demands," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group.
Ford is the latest company to be ensnared in the culture wars over homosexuality, religion and American culture. Microsoft Corp. became a target of religious groups this year for its support of a Washington state bill to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians. The company withdrew its support for the bill, saying it was not caving to pressure but wanted to avoid taking a stand on a politically sensitive issue. After protest by employees, Microsoft reinstated its support for the anti-discrimination bill.
Ford became a target of the American Family Association in May. The association was founded in 1977 by Donald E. Wildmon, who was the pastor of a United Methodist church in Mississippi at the time. It claims to be one of the largest pro-family organizations in the country with nearly 3 million supporters. The association owns 200 radio stations under the American Family Radio name, according to its Web site. In the past, the group has targeted Walt Disney Co. for extending benefits to gay couples and criticized the Fox television series "Boston Public" for sexually oriented story lines.
The prospect of a boycott from the American Family Association, which gathered 110,000 signatures on an anti-Ford petition, worried some Ford dealers in the South, such as Jerry Reynolds of Texas. Reynolds said he started getting calls from customers and realized that a boycott would hurt business, so he faxed a letter to the association. "I said I am a dealer and I am the one who is going to get the brunt of the boycott," he said.
Reynolds and five other dealers met with Wildmon during the minister's subsequent visit to Dallas. In the meeting, he said, Wildmon agreed to give the dealers time to work things out with Ford officials. Subsequently, Ford executives held discussions with the association, including a meeting last month at the AFA's headquarters in Tupelo, Miss. After the meeting, the association agreed to call off the Ford boycott, saying in a written statement that its concerns were being addressed by the company.
Neither Reynolds nor Ford executives would specify what was discussed. Representatives from the American Family Association also declined to comment.
Reynolds said no deal was made on advertising. "There was no agreement struck -- period," he said. The AFA, he said, seemed to appreciate the fact that the dealers and Ford would simply sit down and talk. "Everybody wants there to be something. But there wasn't. We just talked."
Ford's success in heading off a confrontation with the AFA appears to have pushed the company into a new fight. Solmonese, of the Human Rights Campaign, said he spoke yesterday with a top Ford executive in Washington but was not satisfied with the company's explanation.
"Ford Motor Co. has a big public relations mess on its hands that it needs to clean up in short order," Solmonese said. He said his group is galvanizing its 600,000 members to protest Ford's advertising decision with letters and e-mails.
"Ford has been a friend to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender consumers and employees in the past," the group said in an e-mailed "Action Alert." "E-mail Ford today -- ask them to reject the American Family Association's assertions . . . and reaffirm their support for fairness."
Late yesterday Ford noted in a written statement that it would not change its employment policies: "Ford's commitment to diversity as an employer and corporate citizen remains unchanged. Any suggestion to the contrary is just plain wrong."