When news broke last week that Ford Motor Co. would pull ads for Land Rover and Jaguar in gay-oriented magazines such as Out and The Advocate (both owned by PlanetOut), some advertisers and consumer groups expressed concern.
Not only was the move—which came after conservative Christian group American Family Association pressured Ford to stop advertising—perceived as somewhat discriminatory, it alienates a powerful consumer base. The buying power of gay adults is expected to hit $610 billion in 2005, says research firm Witeck-Combs Communications and Packaged Facts.
But while the social implications of Ford's decision are hefty, the impact on Out and The Advocate is minimal. Both magazines have circulations under 150,000. Ford spent $272 million on magazines through October, according to TNS Media Intelligence, but doled out just $1 million to advertise in the two titles, or less than 1 percent of Ford's overall spending. Jaguar and Land Rover spent $503,000 in the two magazines through October, and placed just 29 pages during the period.
"In terms of our business, we're talking about 1 percent of our ad revenue," said PlanetOut president Mark Elderkin. He added that Ford has not contacted him to pull any ads. Jaguar is still running ads on PlanetOut Web sites, and Ford will still advertise its Volvo brand across its properties.
Nevertheless, media buyers fear the message Ford's decision sends to other marketers. While Ford denied it succumbed to AFA pressure, media buyers speculate otherwise and wonder how such advocacy groups will continue to influence advertisers.
One media buyer said, "If you're not in the magazines, is it OK to run in a show like The Ellen DeGeneres Show? I guess Ford decided they weren't ready to fight that PR battle because it wasn't worth it for these small magazines."