ACTIVISTS BLAST FORD FOR PULLING GAY-FRIENDLY ADS

Charge Automaker With Appeasing Conservative Christian Group

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Now that it has pulled ads for Jaguar and Land Rover that targeted gay consumers to head off a boycott from the conservative American Family Association, Ford Motor Co. has come under fire from the gay and lesbian community.
Ford said its Volvo brand will continue to advertise in gay magazines.

Ford’s decision to pull the ads was first published on the Web site of The Advocate, which quoted a Ford spokesman calling the move “strictly business.” The company’s Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands do not advertise in gay publications, but Volvo will continue to advertise in gay titles, because the brand finds it an effective strategy, the Advocate reported.

Handling of gay issues
News of the automaker’s move comes almost a week after the Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest gay rights groups, gave Ford and its brands a perfect score for its consumer buyers’ guide rating based on its handling of gay issues.

A coalition of 17 gay and lesbian activist groups issued a release yesterday expressing their concerns. “We are deeply dismayed by reports in the media and otherwise that the Ford Motor Co. has entered into a confidential agreement with the extremist American Family Association that requires Ford to stop advertising in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media.”

The coalition is calling for a meeting this week with Ford to resolve its concerns.

The automaker today released a statement, saying, “Ford’s commitment to diversity as an employer and corporate citizen remains unchanged. We have employment policies that are second to none regarding our commitment to inclusion. Any suggestion to the contrary is just plain wrong. Advertising decisions for all our brands are driven strictly by a business case, including Volvo, which has decided to market directly to the gay and lesbian community."

Public reaffirmation
“It’s hard to accuse a company of homophobia just because of a change in ad policy,” said Grant Lukenbill, managing director of the Equality Project Investor Advocates, whose group endorses a list of 10 corporate principles favoring the gay community. The group wants Ford to publicly reaffirm its commitment to abide by those principles, which include benefits to employees’ domestic partners and prohibiting gay discrimination.

At least one blog is taking a harder line against Ford. “Ford Motor Co. embraces homophobia in order to appease religious right,” was the headline of a Dec. 3 blog on Americablog.blogspot.com, run by a Washington political consultant, John Aravosis. His blog called for readers to blitz the phone lines of specific Ford executives, board members and public relations staff.

“Ford wants to dance with bigots, that’s fine,” Mr. Aravosis writes. “But you don’t get to do that in the year 2005 and remain a prosperous company in America.”

Ford Motor isn’t profitable globally or in its home North American market and will announce a corporate restructuring in January.

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