Ford Will Return to Gay Media

NEW YORK Ford Motor Co. said it would continue running advertisements in gay-oriented magazines for Land Rover and Jaguar, as well as the rest of its auto brands, including Mazda, Lincoln and Volvo.

The reversal comes a week after Ford drew criticism for deciding to pull ads for Land Rover and Jaguar next year amid pressure from conservative Christian group American Family Association [Adweek Online, Dec. 7].

Last Wednesday, Ford decided to pull the Land Rover and Jaguar ads after the AFA pressed the company to stop advertising in gay-oriented magazines such as Out and The Advocate.

The Detroit automaker denied AFA pressure had anything to do with its decision. In a statement, the company said last week that the two brands “made a business decision about their media plans and it would be inconsistent with the way we manage our business to direct them to do otherwise.”

In a letter to several gay, lesbian and human rights advocacy groups, Joe Laymon, group vice president, corporate human resources, said Ford decided to continue running the ads in an effort to squelch the notion that the automaker would stop marketing to gay consumers.

“It is clear there is a misperception about our intent. As a result, we have decided to run corporate ads in these targeted publications that will include not only Jaguar and Land Rover, but all eight of Ford’s vehicle brands,” Laymon said. “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.”

On Monday, Ford met with leaders of several national gay and lesbian organizations including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to discuss Ford’s decision. Company chairman and CEO Bill Ford issued a statement after the meeting that reaffirmed the company’s commitment to diversity. “We value all people, regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and cultural or physical differences,” he said. “This is a historical commitment of the Ford Motor Co. that I intend to carry forward.”

In Ford’s letter, while reiterating its support of the gay community, the company also asserted its right to meet with the AFA. “We meet every day with people and organizations on many issues and as a business, do not wish be drawn into those that detract from our effectiveness in the marketplace. That said we expect to be measured not by the meetings we conduct but by our conduct itself.”

Meanwhile, the letter also alluded to Ford’s dismal financial situation as a reason why it may cut back support for nonprofit groups and events in the gay community-and other targeted consumers. “While we still support certain events, I know you understand that the business situation will limit the extent of our support in all communities in 2006.”

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