Reverses Decision After Outcry Over Conservative Group Pressure

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DETROIT ( -- Ford Motor Co. said it would resume advertising in gay and lesbian magazines for all eight of its brands through corporate ads, reversing its decision 10 days ago following a public outcry for seemingly appeasing the ultra-conservative American Family Association.
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The AFA had threatened to boycott Ford unless it pulled gay-targeted ads. After meeting with Ford, the Tupelo, Miss., group issued a release, and while it did not make any specific claims of capitulation by the automaker, media reports painted the scenario as an AFA victory.

Washington meeting
That caused an outcry from gay-rights groups, which led Ford to dispatch executives, including Joe Laymon, group VP-human resources, to Washington on Dec. 12 to meet with a coalition of gay and lesbian group leaders.

Late yesterday, the automaker released a letter sent by Mr. Laymon to the gay organizations reaffirming Ford’s commitment to nondiscrimination and inclusiveness. Although he reiterated in the letter that the decision by Ford’s Jaguar and Land Rover brands to withdraw from gay media was a business decision, Mr. Laymon said the marketer had decided to run the corporate ads in gay-targeted publications that will include not only Jaguar and Land Rover, but all eight of its brands.

“It is my hope that this will remove any ambiguity about Ford’s desire to advertise to all important audiences and put this particular issue behind us,” he wrote.

After the Dec. 12 meeting, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest gay organizations, issued a statement, saying, “Any effort to appease a handful of
vocal extremists backfired and offended millions of fair-minded consumers.”

The AFA did not return calls for comment at press time.

Mostly dealer ads
Of the more than $1 million Ford brands spent on gay print media in 2005 and the $932,000 it spent in 2004, the majority was by dealers, not corporate, according to Rivendell Media, a Mountainside, N.J., firm that specializes in buys in gay and lesbian media.

Ford’s Dec. 12 meeting came the same day that Advertising Age published a story showing that despite the AFA’s public pronouncements, similar anti-gay boycotts seem to have fallen flat.

In the spring, the AFA suspended a boycott of Procter & Gamble Co., purportedly after the marketing giant pulled adds from such general-market shows as NBC’s “Will & Grace” and Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and from related Web media. AFA Chairman Donald Wildmon said, “Insofar as we can tell by our monitoring, P&G has stopped their sponsorship of programs promoting the homosexual lifestyle and they have stopped their sponsorship of homosexual Internet sites.”

Boosted spending 33%
But data from TNS Media Intelligence shows P&G never stopped advertising on the NBC and Bravo shows, and actually boosted spending 33% on the two programs in the third quarter to more than $3.6 million vs. the prior quarter, when AFA’s boycott was suspended. P&G told Advertising Age it did not change its media buys.

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