So the Ford advertising fiasco has turned into quite a soap opera, hasn't it? AFA threatens boycott, Ford pulls advertising, LGBT community gets pissed, Ford reinstates advertising, this time featuring all of its brands, not just PAG. Seems pretty cut and dried, eh? Ford has the backbone of a jellyfish.
Or does it? Read on for this Autoblogger's take on Days of our LGBT-Targeted Advertising.
First and foremost, we?re not giving Ford enough credit. While the company isn?t about to win any International Association of Business Communicators awards any time soon, for sure, I highly doubt that any decisions by Ford recently were made as frivilously as the AFA and LGBT groups make it out to be. Threats of boycotts don?t make Ford?s world go ?round ? neither a potential AFA boycott nor the threat of an LGBT boycott is responsible for any decisions Ford has made recently, I?d wager. I don?t think angry AFA people convinced Ford to pull the ads, and I don?t think that a meeting with angry LGBT groups made Ford change its mind.
To recap, Ford maintained that pulling the ads was merely a business decision, while the AFA claimed that Ford?s decision to pull advertising from gay publications was motivated by Ford dealers from the southern U.S. When Ford pulled Land Rover and Jaguar advertising from gay publications, the AFA made this statement:
We are ending the boycott of Ford. 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.
If Ford were worried about an AFA boycott, this would have been the end of the story. It seems that when the AFA
claimed victory, however, that?s when Bill Ford flew off the handle. The reinstitution of the ads is less Ford caving
to gay interest groups and more Ford being annoyed that the AFA would claim victory when, regardless of whether or not
the company commits to advertising in gay publications, diversity and inclusion are clearly high on Ford?s priority
list. Unlike folks like Ed Lapham who argue that Ford caved
to both sides and has ultimately set a precedent that will no doubt be followed by other special interest
groups trying to intimidate the company, I don?t think this is a case of Ford waffling ? it?s Ford making a necessary
public statement about its priorities after a business decision the company made was misinterpreted.
Which is why it is potentially damaging for LGBT organizations to now claim credit for Ford?s U-turn. The AFA has just been burned for claiming credit for Ford?s decision ? the worst thing an LGBT group could do is the same darn thing. Hint, hint.
Now to the AFA boycott. How well will this potential boycott work? Take the instances of the AFA?s boycott of Disney and Kraft for their alleged gay-friendliness, for example. Both companies basically told the AFA to go jump off a bridge, and neither company suffered because of their decisions. It took nine years for the AFA to come up with the reasons to make it look like the organization was successful enough to end the boycott, although I highly doubt Disney is producing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the AFA?s benefit. Furthermore, the AFA has 3 million members. Assuming the United States is five percent LGBT (a conservative estimate ? 10 percent is a figure more commonly thrown around), there are almost 15 million LGBT folks in this country. Anyone could guess which boycott would be more effective.
Now the column that we need to see in a big city newspaper is the one that will chastise the LGBT community for having the reaction it had. In its home state of Michigan alone, Ford was the first of the Big 3 to give Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center in Ferndale $250,000 for its new building, the biggest donation to an LGBT organization by any Fortune 500 Company. Ford drops huge chunks of change on the LGBT community (just as it does with the larger multicultural community), from gifts such as the one it gave to Affirmations to domestic partnership benefits it provides its own employees. What kind of thanks is it for the LGBT community to turn on Ford like that?
And why single out Ford, anyway? To my knowledge, Toyota, a brand praised by those who are environmentally
concerned, gay or straight, doesn?t advertise directly to gay folks. Neither does BMW, a brand that is as much a part
of the rich gay man?s wardrobe as it is the rich straight man?s. General Motors and DaimlerChrysler, while both have
great benefits for employees and diversity initiatives in place (the two companies followed Ford in donating a quarter
of a million each to Affirmations), don?t directly advertise to the LGBT community to my knowledge on a corporate
level. Why single out Ford?
The LGBT community has reacted terribly to this whole situation (with GLAAD earning a special place in my heart as the most ungrateful recipient of Ford?s support when it pulled a promotion that was netting the organization fundraising profits thanks to the automaker), and I have no doubt that these thoughtless knee-jerk reactions have completely undermined the future corporate fundraising efforts for LGBT organizations across the country. Ford should expect this from the AFA, not the automaker?s allies and beneficiaries. I wouldn?t be surprised if corporations that were considering giving to an LGBT organization decide against it now for fear that, should the money dry up down the road, they?ll get backstabbed just like Ford did.
Hmm, corporations deciding against giving money to LGBT organizations? Maybe this is a victory for the AFA after all.