For years, Ford Motor Company has been supportive of the gay community. Much of this support was generated in 2002 when Ford desperately needed Allan Gilmour, a vice president who had retired, to return to return to rescue them from a financial nightmare. After retirement, the VP had come out publicly.
Some support has been more about target marketing included gay specific ads in community papers for Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volvo. Other support was more specific, such as sponsorship of events (such as GLAAD’s media awards) in exchange for prominent placement. This allowed them, for a relatively small expense, to reach a high concentration of the well heeled (for example studio executives of all major Hollywood studios).
Some support directly impacted gay people, such as non-discrimination policies and domestic partnership benefits.
All of this infuriated the American Family Association, an organization dedicated to eliminating any semblance of equality that has been achieved by gay people. They threatened a boycott and used the threat to pressure Ford to cease advertising to gay people, cease sponsorship of gay events, and take away benefits (and possibly non-discrimination protection) from gay employees.
Ford capitulated. WardsAuto, an industry news source, reported the initial story:
In a Nov. 29 meeting at AFA headquarters in Tupelo, MS, David Leitch, general counsel and vice president for Ford, and Ziad Ojakli, group vice president-Corporate Affairs, along with Dallas-area Ford dealer Jerry Reynolds, hammered out a deal.
“We are ending the boycott of Ford,” said Donald E. Wildmon, Chairman of AFA. “While we still have a few differences with Ford, we feel that our concerns are being addressed in good faith and will continue to be addressed in the future.”
A Ford spokesman says the two parties had a “broad discussion” and deferred to the AFA to announce the reconciliation details.
When asked about this, Ford denied that they gave in to demands from AFA and insisted that they had not made any agreement. They said that they had intended to cease niche marketing for Jaguar and Range Rover for quite a while but would continue advertising for Volvo in gay press and that it all had nothing to do with AFA but was a “business decision”.
It now appears that this was a lie.
Today, WardsAuto reports that they did indeed make an agreement and that terms included:
[quote second hand from AmericaBlog – the article is subscription only]
Ford Motor Co.’s decision to cease advertising in gay publications for its Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands is part of a truce between the auto maker and the American Family Assn. (AFA) to avert a threatened boycott by the right-wing Christian conservative group, Ward‚s learns….
As part of the latest agreement hammered out Nov. 29, sources confirm Volvo Cars will continue to advertise in the publications but will use generic ads not tailored to the gay community.
In addition, Ford has agreed not to sponsor any future gay and lesbian events but will continue to maintain its employee policies, such as same-sex partner benefits.
The larger gay organizations are responding with tepid criticism, perhaps because they’ve long had a good relationship with the company and are caught off-guard. Or perhaps they overestimated the company’s commitment to be inclusive of our community or are waiting for additional details.
There is not yet an agreed upon method of response. However, it is likely that someone will initiate a boycott if Ford does not immediately make another “business decision”.
I, for one, feel this is a pivotal moment and that if we allow AFA to push a business into removing gay people from its concept of customer, those who hate gay people (and I do not use the word “hate” lightly) will become energized to attack on more fronts.