Oh Ford.

When Toby Joe and I lived in San Francisco, I worked for Gay.com. I wasn’t there long, but I was there long enough to discover how important it is to have such a site for men and women who are gay, bisexual or transgender. I also realized how tightly knit that community is. It’s reassuring knowing there are groups out there willing to take a stand to see change.

I was a multi-media designer for Gay.com. I worked on banners ads, campaigns, and print advertisements as well. The bulk of my work, was creating Flash banner ads for the many sites that PlanetOut Inc. owned. One of my largest campaigns, was a system of flash banners for Jaguar. I worked hard on that campaign. It was one of my better pieces that came out of my time working for Gay.com.

Around the same time I worked on Jaguar, Coors Brewing Company was facing a massive backlash from the Gay community when it was discovered that a large portion of profits were being donated to anti-gay organizations such as American Family Association. I remember reading about it back then. Bars in San Francisco stopped carrying the beer. Gay and lesbian people (as well as straight supporters) took a stand and got the word out informing people to stop the consumption of all products distributed by Coors. It was a huge success. Their actions spoke in novels. Coors changed their ways and issued apologies. (I read an article back then and am currently trying to find it. As it stands, all I can find right now is this blurb. I will post more when I find more.)

Today, while listening to the Rachel Maddow Show. I learned that the American Family Association is at it again. After threatening to boycott the Ford Motor Company for advertising in gay magazines, Ford has pulled all advertising from gay magazines, online and off. My Jaguar campaign is one of the past. And I hate to break it to Ford, but if they thought a boycott from The American Family Association was bad, wait until they face one from the gay community. Alienating the gay community in order to appeal to this small, right wing group out of Mississippi will not be good for business. I think we’re going to see a pretty massive backlash over the next couple of months. And I’m curious to see how their profits shift. I’m also curious to hear what others think about this.

37 Comments

  1. I linked to the wrong article initially. that has been fixed. Sorry!

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  2. i wonder what the percentage of gay americans + the gay american sympathizers are? versus…..the holy-roller redneck backwoods ford driving typs is? my guess is the impact of gay people who are going to boycott ford is a far cry from the hillbilly ford F-150 drivers. that’s just MHO. i’d say that if the gay scream loud enough, they’ll probably win. i feel bad for ford, they’re just trying to sell vehicles yet they’re allow political correctness to drive their marketing campaign.

    hi i’m greg, a nonaffiliated historical ford hater

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  3. Well, I know what you mean and I’m having a similar discussion on Rachel Maddow’s site about this. The thing is, they own both Volvo (cries!) and Jaguar. While I worked at Gay.com, Jaguar was a huge supporter. I would think that having Volvo and Jaguar linked to any sort of anti-gay sentiment would definitely hurt their sales.

    I haven’t ever like Ford cars, but I do love Volvos.

    Also, it really sends out a horrible message; bigotry is A-OK.

    Just found this. Funny.

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  4. i hear ya, personally i think ford should ignore the christians and the gays completely. i say, ” what does any of this have to do with the making or selling of cars other that a political stunt?” it is hard to imaging the likes of jaguar and volvo saying anything about what their parent company says, considering they’d be defunct companies if ford didn’t resurect them from imposing doom. but i’d have to say that ford will say their butts when they are called on their politically incorrect removal of advertisements from the gay market. it’ll balance out.

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  5. I had no idea up until today that Volvo was purchased by Ford. That makes me feel sad inside. But it certainly makes sense of why they look the way they do now and why they’re not as well built and awesome as they once were.

    How’s that for a volvo review? Not as well built and awesome.

    Clearly, I know little what I speaketh.

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  6. don’t be sad, ford wouldn’t have bought these companies if 1) they didn’t love them too(ford is an automobile loving company) 2) see potential for proffit. 3) want them to continue to cover a niche market. it’s not ford’s fault of how they look, it’s volvo’s fault for making them that way much to the dismay of their followers/buyers, hence the poor sales record. ford has been trying to save them from themselves and try and allow them to be themselves under a new mission statement. ford is a good company(even if it is “big-business”) that allows it’s little companies much autonomy in most aspects of the biz. they own Lotus(becoming popular), always have, but Lotus has been designing their own vehicles since the 60’s independently in their niche sports car market. Volkswagon owns Bentley but they don’t mess with thedesign or construction of the 1500 handmade per year cars in the least, if they did, the rapper’s wouldn’t want them. cars = individuality and we choose to drive what we feel is important to us. if gays stop driving fords, i doubt it’ll even make a mark on their overall sales….i do however fear that if the sales of volvo drop, then ford will drop the volvo line and volvo will die. so to boycot ford through volvo will do nothing but destroy something ford tried to save in the first place. wierd how it comes full circle.

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  7. I haven’t looked up any numbers, but I would venture to guess that the gay demographic is much more desirable, from a dollar standpoint, than the American Family Association demographic. I thought America was all about capitalism…and in the end I suspect it will be. They’ll probably realize that the average gay household has more money to buy cars than the average ultra-right-wing household when the smoke clears on this. I think it is pretty lame that any company would allow a group of bullies to make business decisions for them.

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  8. Michele, I agree wholeheartedly.

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  9. gays are enlightened, they’re stylish, they have great self awareness and awarenes of things like the environment and social concerns. they’re not buying Ford automobiles. i personally don’t know of one attractive Ford automobile that i would buy and i’m not even gay. i believe in conserving energy, i bought a honda which gets better gas mileage than any ford out there. plus it’s cute. the Ford F-150 truck, a few years back, was the number one selling vehicle in the united states for 4 years running, it’s sales dwarfed the second and third place runner ups and those were cars, not even in the same class. all i’m saying is, i’d like to know how many gays drive Fords, i don’t know any(i’m sure they’re out there but)….they drive nice cars. my uncle drives a mercedes. my two lesbian friends share a lexus. and my one local gay friend/client drives an acura. granted there aren’t many gay people in my area, but every other car i pass on the highway is a ford and i live in the area of around 8 churches with their parkinglots filled with Fords. i just think that you’re right about the money thing,, but i still doubt it’s real monetary affect towards something that doesn’t get much business from the gay community already. just my opinion

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  10. Greg, I think Fords are more popular than you think. I know of 3 gay households on my street. Here is the rundown of their cars:
    Lincoln Navigator, Ford Explorer, Volvo S70, Saturn sporty model, and a Mini Cooper.

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  11. i hope you don’t think i’m being mean, i’m not and i’d like to reiterate that i don’t like any group telling another what to do(even though it seems to be a very persuasive method).

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  12. greg, no way, man. I don’t think you’re being mean at all. I was and still am curious and want people’s opinions on the matter. I know what you mean.

    Then again, I didn’t realize how many gay men and women cared for Coors, either.

    I dunno.

    But please don’t apologize or anything like that. I like conversation/discussion. Really.

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  13. I agree with Greg. Ford is a corporation. They make decisions like any other business. They do it based on what will help/hurt their bottom dollar. I would guess they looked at their demographics on new car sales and saw that it would be more profitable to drop gay advertising than to insult some conservative group. I would also guess the majority of the country will never know that the ads ever existed or have been pulled. When we bought our latest car, we researched reliablility, gas mileage for vehicles in that size, and features. We went with one that we liked aesthetically and met all of our needs (plus had a great Bose stereo). It would have never occurred to me to question where Nissan did or didn’t advertise their cars.

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  14. Greg, I didn’t think you were being mean at all. The majority of gay people I know are trying to have a child or already have one, so I think that skews the data. Plus, I live in Texas, where they should change the state motto from “Don’t mess with Texas” to “Oh, as long as you’re buying gas go right ahead.” That being said I see a lot of rainbow stickers on Explorers.

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  15. not to get anal with all of this hehehe. butt as of 2000, the gay population in the us was around 1.2 million and the total population was around 260million people…that .45% of our population was gay, now how many of them buy Ford products. now look at how many holy rollers there are???? i don’t know, not many but i’m guessing more than 0.4% i’d hazzard a guess that it’s the people that don’t give a shit that are buying the huge number of Fords, the ones paying the bills. (and there are a bunch of people(religious) out there that know gays and are friends with gays that still may not believe in gay marriage, but this does not make the bigots.)

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  16. How is it that advertising to a certain group of people might insult another group? And how is this any different from a group getting away with outwardly opposing advertising to blacks or hispanics? That wouldn’t be acceptable for a second.! I guess some people still believe that sexual preference is a choice?

    I don’t get it. It’s not like they are advertising gay marriage, they are merely trying to sell their cars to as many people as possible, hence advertising on and in gay magazines and Web sites.

    I don’t have an answer, but this seems very wrong to me.

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  17. you’re right, it is wrong. the holy rollers have chosen to view life through a set of rules that were written almost 2 thousand years ago. call me crazy, but i had a strange feeling that things have changed a little since then. i don’t ever want to deny these people their beliefs, but at the same time they need to allow me mine and other people theirs…………i’m sorry about the gay marriage line from above, but in it stems a huge variable in the fight for understanding. the holy rollers will never understand homosexuals while looking at them through a 2000 year old book. the gays(IMHO) are fighting the wrong fight in wanting to be “married” in the traditional sense. the holy-rollers think it’s lessening their belief structure under God. personally i think the gays need to fight for a “state(d) union” in the eyes of the government, and divorce themselves from any traditional wedding chappel marriage under God. if gays were to call it something other than marriage and stop fistfighting with the tradition, i think they could get what they want, a recognised union in the eyes of the state with all of the perks of being married. and the holy rollers can go on thinking that their marriages are sacred under God. sorry if this went off course……………i’m not very busy today, lots of time to think

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  18. I somewhat agree with you Greg. I have often wondered why people want to be accepted by groups that do not regard them as equals. Be it the gay community or women in the Catholic church. I was raised Catholic and left as soon as it became obvious that my vagina made me somehow inadequate. Possibly people greater then me can fight for me and their values and win some battles What that has to do with cars I don’t know.

    Is it true that Americans only buy American made cars? I have heard this many times and always felt “wow, what great patriotism, but lousy environmental and quality decisions”

    Meg

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  19. I think it depends on where you live Meg. A good friend of mine grew up outside of Detroit and it was very taboo (according to her) to drive anything other than an American made car. It doesn’t seem that way any place I have lived. Of course being from the deep south, a lot foreign cars are made here so it is supporting our economy to buy foreign.

    If you mean do other countries drive American cars, there was a report on one of the news magazines (maybe 60 minutes) about how Buicks were the car among the young, hip professionals in China. I don’t know of anyone who has ever thought of a Buick as hip. It was a total status symbol to have a Buick there though.

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  20. It’s funny, but I think most of the time I hear the opposite. Most everyone I know or catch wind of avoid American made cars. Now, that changed a leetle bit after Saturn but I’d say that the most popular would be Japanese made cars. Then again, I have no facts to back this up. :]

    I drive a 30-year-old Volvo. I can’t even get with the latest decade.

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  21. While gays may not make up a huge percent of the population, demographically they are a very desirable group. They are highly educated and have more disposable income than just about any other demographic. That’s why the free market really can work to help bridge these divides because, when it comes down to it, Americans love money more than just about anything else and if it makes financial sense to market to gays a company is going to do it.

    Based on the financial situation faced by most US auto companies these days I’m surprised that any of them would want to purposely alienate any potential clients. But someone made the decision for some reason—I would venture to guess it is more of a personal decision by one or a few right-wing sympathizers in high positions within Ford and that’s generally a bad way to run a business. They can do whatever they want, though, and I hope it bites them in the ass.

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  22. again, couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I still come back to the same thought, if this were ANY other group of people, people would be going nuts. Is the gay community the last safe group to outwardly despise?

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  23. So off topic…

    But the real cool car over here is the Cadillac Escalade. You still see some old Buicks..I mean old! Gas here is cheaper than water. So the bigger the better.

    I am under the impression that there are a lot of gay men here. Definitely the expats have a big scene and I hear the locals like to be in the club as well. You know if you can’t view the women….
    Maybe Ford should advertise in Gay Mid east Zines.

    Meghan with insomnia

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  24. No Michele. Fat people are the last group it is safe to outwardly despise. Gays have the power of their money and they’ll make a stand, I’m sure.

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  25. Wow. I totally forgot about them. So Fat Gay people are pretty much better off dead and definitely not welcome in any Ford.

    Michele, you kill me.

    And insomniac Meghan, I’m enjoying the stream of conscious posting.

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  26. meghan, where are you???….fat people, good one……i was going to say dumb people, then i realized we can’t help it, then i went to lawyers but was affraid of being sued….so i have to go with booger-pickers or then new “in-group” to hate, mexicans, but i’m a closet fan of the mexicans because they work so hard! the mexicans are like americans of the old days before we became silver-spoon whinerswith a side of entitlement attitude! : )

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  27. ::chirp::
    I personally can’t stand Nextel users.
    ::chirp::

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  28. My dance teacher was talking about a strategy that Patagonia adopted when faced with pro-life protestors in light of the company’s contributions to Planned Parenthood: to donate money for every protestor who picketed. A clever tactic while standing their ground.
    A related link: http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/2005/09/17/planned-parenthood-gets-freaky/

    As for Ford, I can see why they panicked—not that I necessarily agree with it. Greg’s right about their truck sales…and which segment of the market do you suppose is largely buying those trucks? At the end of the day, it was a choice regarding marketing strategy in terms of where they were paying to place their ads. I think it’s a bit short-sighted, but given the fierce competition that American automakers face, I can see why they didn’t want trouble. That said, the ads themselves, regardless of content, also sent a strong message that the company is (or rather, was) gay-friendly. It’s a shame that they backed down.

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  29. I think it’s really sad. I don’t think Ford should have to voice a political opinion one way or the other, I just think they should sell cars. Does it feel like this stuff has gotten way out of hand?

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  30. Greg I live in the United Arab Emirates.

    I just read an article saying that Ford has started a major campaign here. Their expedition and mountaineer are selling like hotcakes. It also states that Ford is easy to sell here because they own the much beloved Land Rover ( don’t know why because they suck in the sand and break down a lot) and Jag. So I guess Ford does not need me to market their autos over here after all. Damn, another career crushed before the starting gate even opened.

    M

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  31. When paying attention only to immediate sales, I don’t find any fault with Ford for this decision, but the long-term effects are unknown, which is kinda naive.

    Luckily, as consumers, we get to think beyond the bottom line of a company, and are able to examine decisions in the broader context of our society and ethics. When not thinking as a shareholder, I think it’s a deplorable decision.

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  32. well, i just saw on the news this morning that ford is planning on closing up some plants here in america. if they play their cards right, they’ll be able to leave america altogether and move to china and india(the new world) and then maybe people like me (who only buys imports) can again purchase a ford.

    meghan, wow, that’s cool, i’ve heard stories about UAE from two of my former students a few years back, they originated from there.

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  33. Are we outsourcing everything to India now? yeesh,

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  34. I like that point TobyJoe. I wonder if there’s any way to seperate capatalism and partisan manipulation.

    I think about my father’s company, which if I manage to keep my pants on, will one day become my company. We are lucky because our funding is based strictly on the cases we win for people. Our clients don’t really care what our personal views are, they just want our help. So, we have a lot of freedom. My dad can join the fight for gay rights without reprocutions to his livelyhood. (or that of his employees)

    I’m trying to imagine being put in a position where I had to make that kind of choice. I hope I would make the right one. I would like to think that I would, but if I had kids to feed it might not be so easy.

    I’m not taking up for Ford, I’m just playing the devil’s advocate. :)

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  35. I linked to this awhile back on my page but I don’t know if anybody read it: a spirited debate on business’ social “responsibility”.
    http://www.reason.com/0510/fe.mf.rethinking.shtml

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  36. Missy, a superb article. Extremely poignant. I am going to reread it and then make some more comments.

    Thanks, for linking to it. I hadn’t seen it before.

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