NEW YORK The American Family Association has ended its two-year boycott of Ford over the automaker's advertising on Web sites and in publications geared toward the gay community.
The conservative group confirmed today that Ford has met all of the conditions presented by the group in fall 2005, shortly before a boycott began in March 2006 over Ford's practice of offering benefits to same-sex couples and its marketing efforts in the gay community.
The AFA, based in Tupelo, Miss., singled out Ford as "the company [that] has done the most to affirm and promote the homosexual lifestyle," according to an early post on the group's Web site, boycottford.com, which is now inoperative. Ford representatives, dealers and AFA leaders were in discussions for several months prior to the boycott.
Some Ford dealers, particularly in the South, have said that the boycott impacted their sales.
AFA chairman Donald E. Wildmon declined an interview request, but said in a statement that the original agreement between the AFA and Ford contained four conditions.
First, Ford would have to cease all advertising on gay Web sites and throughout gay media outlets, including magazines, television and radio, in the U.S. with the exception of $100,000 to be used by Volvo. The Volvo ads would have been the same ads used in the general media and not specifically aimed at the gay community. Second, Ford would not be able to renew current promotions or create future incentives that give cash donations to gay organizations based on the purchase of a vehicle. Third, Ford would be prohibited from making corporate donations to gay organizations that engage in political or social campaigns to promote civil unions or same-sex marriage. Lastly, Ford would have to stop giving cash and vehicle donations or endorsements to gay social activities such as "gay pride" parades.
Ford had to scale back spending across the board due to fewer sales in the U.S., said Ford representative Jim Cain, in a written statement. Ford's sales last year were down 13.6 percent from the previous year, per Autodata, Woodcliff Lake, N.J. The decline is attributed to "difficult business conditions."
Ford, based in Dearborn, Mich., said its principles haven't changed and that it's ready to move past the AFA's decision. "We are committed to treating everyone fairly and with respect, including our dealers, customers and employees," stated Cain. "Ford will continue to market its products widely to attract as many customers as possible and make charitable contributions to strengthen communities to the extent business conditions allow."
Some publishers targeting gay consumers are feeling the heat. "The AFA has made my life very difficult. They have scared the crap out of some of my advertisers," said Joe LaMuraglia, founder of Gaywheels.com, Atlanta. While the Web site has had ad buys from GM and Toyota's Lexus brand, others have been a tough sell.
Ford's ad spending has remained consistent for the last three years: $1.6 billion in 2005, $1.76 billion in 2006 and $1.6 billion last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Figures do not include Internet spending.