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December 09, 2005

Volvo's Gay Friendly Position Proves Ford Didn't Cave To The AFA

David Kiley

The best definitions of “conservative” and liberal” I ever heard comes from….well…me. “Liberals” are about protecting freedoms of choice for individuals as long as those freedoms aren’t unlawful or hurt other people. Those who call themselves “conservative” today aren’t happy unless people abide by their choices.

And so I enter into the vortex of insanity called the press coverage surrounding ther American Family Association, its head, the appropriately named Donald Wildmon, and Ford Motor Co. I’ve been deconstructing the events and here are my conclusions.

For months, the AFA has been urging a boycott of Ford products because of its support through advertising of and sponsorship of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, an advocacy group, advertising in a few gay publications and its support of domestic partner benefits. Ford met with the AFA as they meet with many special interest groups. Jaguar and Land Rover, which have been undergoing severe cost-cutting, had decided, as was related to me as far back as September, to make big cuts in its magazine budget. Though gay publications were not specified to me then, the strategy was to eliminate titles where audiences overlapped. In other words, Jag and Land Rover could reach the same readers of the gay publications in The Wine Spectator and other such mags.

The AFA, which has an undeniable (though it tries) agenda against homosexuals living peacefully and enjoying liberties equal to straight people, is in the business of claiming victories, even when there isn’t one to claim. That helps drive membership contributions. I wouldn’t doubt that some dealer or even a Ford exec may have pointed to some gay magazine titles dropping from Jaguar/Land Rover’s ad schedule as a ploy to make the group go away. But since Volvo has no intention of dropping its ad schedule with The Advocate, a gay magazine, I’m at a loss to figure out why the AFA can claim victory for anything. The AFA took down its www.boycottford.com website, which now simply links to the AFA’s website, citing Ford’s apparent decision to give into their demands.

This is akin to someone claiming they made the sun come out because they did a sun dance just before dawn. Jaguar and Land Rover were almost certainly making these cuts regardless of the AFA.

Ford will be meeting with a coalition of gay advocacy executives soon to hear them out too. Meantime, the groups are squawking. From Michael Wilke, executive director, Commercial Closet Association: “Commercial Closet Association understands Ford Motor Co.'s dilemma, though we don't agree with its decision to reverse its careful research on gay and lesbian consumers, years of friendship-building corporate sponsorship, and gay-friendly advertising since 2002.”

Sigh.

This is one of those non stories driven by people with a wacky axe to grind. The AFA claims a false victory. GLAAD and CCA have to respond because the AFA makes it appears as if the AFA clubbed Ford like a harp seal. Now, Ford, which I know, after covering the company for twenty years, is not anti-gay (it’s former CFO is openly gay and it’s benefit policies are toward domestic partners are more generous than most) may be compelled to articulate or re-affirm that it is not anti-gay. I hope they do. But they may not be able to. Sales are down and the company is suffering financially (no doubt a plague brought down o them for being supportive of gay rights)and dealers will not want to go back on the boycott merry-go-round.

If ever there was a misnamed organization, it’s the AFA. This from their website:

"Does AFA Hate Homosexuals?

Absolutely Not! The same Holy Bible that calls us to reject sin, calls us to love our neighbor. It is that love that motivates us to expose the misrepresentation of the radical homosexual agenda and stop its spread though our culture. AFA has sponsored several events reaching out to homosexuals and letting them know there is love and healing at the Cross of Christ.”

And this: “'Gay' - For centuries, gay was defined as "merry, happily excited or lively." Homosexual activists have reinvented this word to define their lifestyle. It's odd, isn't it, that the term "gay" would be used to describe a lifestyle than (on average) lowers the life expectancy of homosexual males by over 20 years? That's according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta -- not a statistic just dreamed up by opponents of homosexuality.”

Okay….can we at least agree that the AFA is terribly hostile to gay people. For what reason, only Reverend Wildmon really knows.

I’m not carrying water for Ford on this issue. My aim in this particular blog entry is to carry water for the truth. The truth is that since Ford’s Volvo brand is still running ads in gay media, how can the AFA claim any kind of victory here. How ironic that Volvo is arguably the most family focused brand under Ford’s corporate umbrella. It's decades long positioning as the safest car for your children. It invented safety belts. If you are curious about the business reasons, if not the moral reasons, for Volvo not giving in. The Swedes would organize a boycott of Volvo in the brand’s home market if Ford gave into the AFA. And Volvo is one of the only profitable pieces of Ford these days.

Good for the Swedes!

05:56 PM

marketing/social policy

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Mr. Kiley,

I'm confused as to why you would write so poorly researched of an article. It seems almost as though you just decided that you knew the facts without having to ask.

Yes, Ford did cave in. And that they created a domestic partnership program some years back does not take away from the fact that they did cave. If you care to write about such things, do your homework.

As reported at WardsAuto, not only did Ford agree to drop ads for Jaguar and Land Rover, they agreed to have no further sponsorship of any gay events. In other words, other than Volvo, Ford does not consider the gay community to be part of their customer base.

And while Volvo did not drop it's ad schedule, it agreed to eliminate advertising that was targeted to gay people, i.e. that depicted gay people in any way. If Volvo said "sure, we'll advertize in Ebony and Jet, but all the ads will have white people" I'm sure (or at least I hope) that you would be offended.

And your comment about reaching gay readers by advertising in Wine Spectator is so offensive that at first I thought it was satire. Wine Spectator?!? Oh, cuz all fags drink wine? This sort of stereotyping suggests that your familiarity with gay people is either very limited or very bigoted.

Jolly for you that you're a "liberal". But I'd far rather have a conservative that is less smug and more willing to make themselves aware of facts rather than float on presumptions, half-facts, and stereotypes. At least then I don't have "friends" like you downplaying and condescending to me.

Posted by: Timothy at December 9, 2005 06:42 PM

What kind of muscle car do you guys think a gay car guy would drive and what engine would he have in it?

Posted by: Erik at December 9, 2005 06:50 PM

By the way, that statistic on the supposed gay lifespan is incorrect and the AFA knows it.

They take it from a discredited researcher named Paul Cameron and a study from Canada which they distorted. The original six researchers of said study have gone on record saying so.

Just don't want any of AFA's lies to be unchallenged

Posted by: A.M. at December 9, 2005 08:00 PM

You make more than one excellent point in this blog post, especially the notion that Ford may have cut its advertising to reduce overlapping markets (so the seeming anti-gay maneuver could have an innocent explanation). But you lack credibility when you say that you don't doubt that a "some dealer or even a Ford exec" may have misled the AFA. From what I've read, the evidence is clear that two specific Ford execs repeatedly acknowledged an influence by the AFA, and they did so both to the AFA and to independent media. You seem to ignore or be unaware of the evidence that doesn't fit your opinion. Finally, your core argument--that if one subsidiary of Ford still advertises in gay newspapers, then Ford can't be anti-gay because if they were behaving logically and consistently they would have withdrawn advertising from all gay publications--really makes no sense. Your own final argument says it all: Ford is making rational business decisions. With Volvo, they went pro-gay. With brands that have more of a soccer mom red state appeal, they are going pro-AFA (i.e., anti-gay).

Posted by: Joe Perez at December 9, 2005 08:31 PM

Nice try.

After being threatened with a boycott by the aforementioned hate group, Ford met with the group

and reached an accord which included not only cutting back advertising in gay media, but also

no longer producing adverisements for the gay community (they will only use generic ads when they do advertise) and no longer being a corporate sponsor at any gay events.

Since doing so, they have been simply lying to the media and claiming not to have made any such deal.

FOrd is not the first company to be blackmailed by these groups - but it is the first one in 15 years to capitulate (Kraft foods was the most recent and honorably stood their ground).

Posted by: Patrick ONeill at December 10, 2005 11:41 AM

Just an FYI, since you quote one of the lies the anti-gay right tells and disguises as statistics. There is absolutely no data suggesting that gay people have a different life expectancy than straights. That 20-year thing is, in fact, "a statistic dreamed up by opponents of heterosexuality." The specific opponent is Paul Cameron, head of the Family Research Institute and a well-known scientific fraud. No less an authority than the Supreme Court of the United States, in its Lawrence vs. Texas decision, noted in a footnote: "Dr. Cameron, who is cited as an authority ... has been discredited in both the scientific community and the courts." It goes on to note that a lower court judge characterized Cameron's testimony as "fraud or misrepresentation." In the 1980s, Cameron was ejected from the American Psychological Association, the Nebraska Psychological Association, and the American Sociological Association, the last of which noted: "Dr. Paul Cameron has consistently misinterpreted and misrepresented sociological research on sexuality, homosexuality, and lesbianism."

Cameron first dreamed up the statistic in a study he did of obituaries in gay newspapers. The methodological flaws in that study are detailed at the website of a University of California,Davis, professor of psychology's website: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_cameron.html

Suffice it to say that a sample of the obituaries of people that happened to be printed in the gay press, which does not make a habit of listing all deaths of everyone, is not even close to a statistically useful sample.

Then recently Cameron juggled some statistics from the CDC and, surprise!, came up with exactly the same results. Cameron has a long history of drawing invalid conclusions by comparing numbers that are not comparable and ignoring factors that would render his conclusions inaccurate.

There's one other study the bigots cite in pretending gay people die younger. That's a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology that looked at how AIDS was affecting the life expectancy of gay men in Vancouver in the late 80s and early 90s. It was an attempt to measure the effects of a disease on a certain portion of the population, not to differentiate gay life spans from straight ones. It was never generally applicable to the rest of the world, and since it was done before newer AIDS drugs came out, the numbers it found are no longer valid. In any case, it only applied to gay men, and not to lesbians, who get AIDS at a lower rate than heterosexuals and so, by the logic of the AFA, are leading a "lifestyle" that should be encouraged.

The authors of that study, Robert Hogg et al., were so appalled by the misrepresentation of their study that they felt compelled to publish a letter in the Journal in 2001. "These homophobic groups appear more interested in restricting the human rights of gay and bisexuals rather than promoting their health and well being," they wrote.

They added, "It is essential to note that the life expectancy of any population is a descriptive and not a prescriptive mesaure. Death is a product of the way a person lives and what physical and environmental hazards he or she faces everyday. It cannot be attributed solely to their sexual orientation or any other ethnic or social factor." And they said that anyone wanting to know the life expectancy of a gay man should use the same actuarial tables used for all men.

Posted by: Neil Savage at December 10, 2005 02:49 PM

The real story here isn't WHY Ford and the AFA made their announcements so closely together (although we'd LOVE to know) but rather, how will this PR nightmare affect the other brands. Yes, rumor has it that Volvo will continue to advertise but will the GLBT consumer buy any of Ford's brands? Our research is saying NO. If the public perceives that Ford gave into AFA's demands, then all of Ford's brands will be tarnished in the eyes of many of the GLBT consumers. We recognize Ford and their brands as "Gay-friendly" on Gaywheels.com. We hope that in the coming week Ford will explain their actions to the satisfaction of the GLBT consumer. At the end of the day, perception is more powerful than reality and our research shows that up to 91% of those surveyed will not consider a Ford product in the future based on their perecptions of what happend last week.

Posted by: Joe LaMuraglia at December 10, 2005 03:21 PM

The problem with an issue like this is that there are two sides, and each side needs to claim a victory or an injury. There isn't a lot of room for shades of grey.

IM not sure hwo anyone can successfully argue that Ford gave in to either side when it pulled some of its sponsorship ad money in gay media, while maintaining some.

One thing is for sure....just because the AFA called off its boycott doesn't mean that Ford caved. What it means is that the AFA is telling its members that it won a victory against Ford. That's different from really winning something.

Posted by: KIley at December 12, 2005 01:40 PM

Another issue to consider is Ford’s alleged business decision to cut advertising spending in gay publications. Kiley believes Ford would have cut the spending regardless, and he’s probably right. But it’s another example of the “minority” budgets being eliminated first. Sure, folks will argue that the mass market budgets took a hit too. But how many mass market efforts were totally eliminated? And if you view it in terms of percentages versus dollar figures, it would be a whole different story — a bad story for the gay market.

Kiley sought to reveal the truth. But these days, it’s no longer possible to determine the truth. Perception trumps reality. And the perception here stinks.

Posted by: HighJive at December 12, 2005 02:09 PM

Re: What kind of car would a gay car guy drive:

An bling Pantera with a 351 with a polished transaxle.

Posted by: DinoGT at December 13, 2005 05:05 PM

As a Ford shareholder and non-Ford marketing exec, I am pleased that Ford is taking all reasonable steps to cut advertising expenses. In most cases, this does mean dropping media spending in some very targeted publications as long as those car-buying constituencies are reached by other publications. That is a normal business practice and I hope it’s what Ford has done. Ford’s efforts should also include cutting production costs by making fewer ads work in more publications. If the hate-mongering AFA was the catalyst for the review and subsequent cuts, that truly is a shame but that’s life. I just hope Ford has a real strategy in place for these types of media cuts and doesn’t wait for special interest group pressure to make needed expense saves. We simply don’t have enough facts to fully understand their position. As far as Ford turning anti-gay, get serious! They seem to be at the forefront of enlightened benefits for old world American manufacturing. Probably too far out in front given their financial predicament.

Posted by: Brian at December 13, 2005 08:36 PM

I live in a household with four gay men. There are a total of 5 Ford vehicles and one Volvo. I can promise you that we will NOT be buying Ford or any of the brands it owns again.

Posted by: Zane at December 14, 2005 08:07 PM

Tanks "lord" i am european. A target is a target, pink money is good money as other. If Ford doens't wnat to be considerer a gay friendly or whatever company, it's fair but have to considere also not afro friendly, not jewish friendly, not everyone.

Usualy the marketing is used to prepaired to achive an objectiv, and it's to sell.

To buy a new or 2º and car i will never considerer the label, i will if the car is good, the engine is trustful and safety is satisfactory and of course the price. I never had a Ford, but a MG and a Land Rover,Renault and Fiat and 1º one car a Datsun 1200 yess, by the hazard, sometimes i think am gay (...)Sorry my bad english

Posted by: José Paulo Seabra at December 14, 2005 11:11 PM

I find the comment from Patrick "After being threatened with a boycott by the aforementioned hate group," to be ominous.

Christian "end-times" books and films depict a day when Bible-believing Christians are called the "hate group" and "haters" because they follow God's Word. Comments like Patrick's demonstrate that this is now reality.

Posted by: churchNstate at December 15, 2005 01:53 PM

First, your definitions of "liberal" and "conservative" couldn't be further from correct, in fact it's only your opinion of a label for each.

I believe a "family" is one with a man and a woman and children if they wish. But the world and our country has changed so even though I have been "raised" as a conservative, I do believe in the rights of humans to make their own choices except those choices that are harmful to others.

I don't think homosexuality is "natural" but some of my best friends are gay. If I had to choose whether to give a child to a cute straight couple that have drug, alcohol and abuse problems or give him to a gay couple that will provide a safe and loving home, I'd most assuredly go for safe and love.

I love animals and the environment but dislike the groups that give us "bunny huggers" a bad name, like Greenpeace and PETA. They go way too far. Groups like the AFA is also a group that goes too far, as does the ACLU.

I hope Ford made it's decisions based on what marketing would go the farthest for their money in a day and age where they are having to make cuts to save a company. They shouldn't have to prove anything! I truely believe that most consumers make their car buying decisions based on thier needs and wants over whether or not it's a "gay" company. Most companies do target different "groups" of people to get the most for their money. They'd be irresponsible if they didn't. That's what marketing is.. targeting.

Stop labeling and be respectful of others and while we're at it... why don't we get rid of "parties" and vote for candidates with the best ideas, whoever gets the most actual votes, wins... just like whoever has the best product, gets the most consumers. When I bought my Ford, I never thought once for even a second whether there was a gay issue involved... the same goes for my Pontiac.

Posted by: Jodi at December 15, 2005 03:53 PM

Well, Jodi, I just hope you don't actually tell your gay friends that you don't think their partnerships are "natural" (and enough with the scary abuse of quotation marks!). As a gay person, I would definitely immediately cut off my relationship with anyone who had the gall to believe that, yet claim to be my friend.

Posted by: myers at January 6, 2006 09:41 AM

Basically what it boils down to is Ford needed to save some money and buy cheaper airtime, FX seems to be perfect for that. No need to make a big deal about what particular show is being aired, who cares.

When my generation starts making the decisions in this country, frivolous issues like this won't even reach the back page of the Enquirer.

Homosexuality has been around for an extremely long time... Wake Up. Alexander the Great was born in 356 B.C. and conquered most of the known world... and it's well known he took many men into his tent to spend the evening with.

If the AFA wanted a "witch hunt" for homosexualism, they should have began by interrogating every priest and choir boy in the nation.

Posted by: A Simple Man at January 26, 2007 06:26 PM

Fnord's problems come from a series of really poor business and marketing moves of historic proportions and have nothing to do with the AFA bullshit. Dropping the Taurus and the Escort model lines are just one example (what a mistake that was!!!). The slurping bubbling sound isn't coming from Ford's unsold cars, it's from the AFA speaking with their collective heads up their 0wn asses.

Like Briney, Ford's problem stems from not having good gays behind their marketing and image. This latest move to pull out of Glaad will further distance Ford from the good gays they need to revive their sagging image. It is just another of Ford's bonehead ideas that will backfire in the end.

Posted by: Zack at March 10, 2007 08:26 PM

Wait a minute, so gays are supposed to revive their (Fords) sagging image?

Ford needs to remain neutral. Why does sexuality EVEN have to come into the equation?

It doesnt.

If ppl, be it gay or straight DONT like your product, they wont buy it EVEN IF IT is a homosexual magazine!!

AFA is not the result of the problems of Ford, its Ford deciding to ignorant and not remain neutral!!

Posted by: Angel at March 14, 2007 06:54 PM


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