Jaguar, Land Rover ads halted in gay media, Ford confirms
The antigay American Family Association claimed a cultural victory on Thursday and called off its threatened boycott of Ford Motor Co. On Friday, Ford spokesman Mike Moran confirmed to Advocate.com that the company will stop advertising its Jaguar and Land Rover brands in gay publications but insisted it was strictly a business decision.
The Dearborn, Mich., automaker came under fire from the AFA in May for its longtime efforts to increase LGBT workplace diversity and support gay rights causes. Ford has long been a regular advertiser within gay media, including The Advocate, and has donated significant sums to LGBT causes and nonprofit groups such as the Human Rights Campaign.
Threatened with a boycott by the Mississippi-based AFA, Ford and some of its dealers agreed to negotiate, and the AFA announced in June that it would hold off on its planned action. On Thursday, AFA announced the boycott would be canceled altogether.
"They've heard our concerns; they are acting on our concerns. We are pleased with where we are," said Donald Wildmon, AFA’s chairman, in a statement. "Obviously there are still some small matters of difference, as people will always have, but generally speaking, we are pleased with the results—and therefore the boycott that had been suspended [is] now officially ended."
Specific terms of any formal agreement between the AFA and Ford—and whether any such agreement has in fact been reached—remain unclear.
When first contacted, Ford spokesman Moran referred Advocate.com to the AFA statement, suggesting that the company had no disagreement with Wildmon's assertions. In a second conversation he confirmed that the company would no longer advertise Jaguar and Land Rover products in the gay media, saying that the decision was strictly "business."
"In all cases, we review this issue from a business perspective in regards to advertising," Moran said. "Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury [brands] did not advertise in gay publications anyway. At this time, Jaguar and Land Rover will not do so going forward.” He added that Volvo will still advertise in gay publications because the company believes it's an effective strategy for that market.
Detroit carmakers are facing tough economic times across the board, Moran pointed out. On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Ford plans to shut five North American plants that employ 7,500 workers. On Thursday, the company said its total U.S. vehicle sales in November fell by 15%.
Moran would not give further details on any agreement between Ford and the AFA, nor would he confirm that such an agreement existed. “Some months ago we began a constructive dialogue with them, just as we do with all other customers and interest groups," he said. "While we don't agree on all issues, we expect the dialogue to continue so that we understand each other better."
According to a list of demands on AFA's Web site, the organization insisted that Ford and all of its brands stop donating cash, vehicles, and endorsements to gay social activities. This includes donations to pride celebrations and groups such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. AFA says those groups have received contributions from Ford in the past.
Whether such sponsorship deals—in which Ford brands are given visibility by nonprofit groups and at LGBT events in return for donations—will continue, Moran could not say.
Comment on Ford's announcement is expected soon from HRC, GLAAD, and the Task Force over the weekend or early next week, but none was prepared to make a statement by close of business on Friday.
The AFA has said it reserves the right to reinstate the boycott if it feels Ford has not met its expectations. (Advocate.com)
It's never a good idea to kowtow to the AFA.
Now Americablog's John Aravosis jumped on the bandwagon and has the phone numbers for some of the Ford PR people. He has a good question:
Some initial contact info for Ford's public relation's people. Let's fill their voice mail boxes over the weekend. Ask them if they'd pull all their advertising in black media or Jewish media if the Klan gave them a call:
Contact: Rosemary Mariniello, Jaguar Land Rover North America, (201) 818-8010
Contact: Jim Cain, Ford Division, (313) 248-6288
Contact: Sara Tatchio, Lincoln and Mercury, (313) 594-3744
Contact: Roger Ormisher, Volvo Cars of North America, Inc., (800) 970-0888
Contact: George Pipas, Ford Motor Company, (313) 323-9216
Contact: Dan Bedore, Ford Division, (313) 323-7045
I called all these people for comment. I'll let you know whether any of these people returns my call.
There's more information on Ford's Board of Directors here.
Hennepin County Ford Dealer Contacts are here.