We Won

UPDATE: You can thank Ford via this online form.

FURTHER UPDATE: Great AP story on our victory.

Regarding that Ford thing? We just won.

The Ford Motor Company today released the following letter (below) clarifying that whatever did or did not happen behind closed doors with the American Family Association (AFA) two weeks ago, the company is NOT backing off of its support for the gay community or gay advertising (in contrast to what was reported over the past two weeks).

According to the AFA and media reports over the past two weeks, in order to avoid a boycott from the extremist gay-hating organization, Ford allegedly agreed to:

1. No longer run ads promoting Jaguar or Land Rover in the gay press.
2. No longer support gay events or organizations.
3. Continue running Volvo ads in the gay press, but no longer tailor those ads to the gay community (i.e., in the future such ads would be the same ads that are run in the mainstream media, rather than the crafting the ads to appeal to a gay readership).

Ford addressed and resolved each of our three concerns regarding the above:

1. Ford announced that it will continue to support gay organizations and gay events in the coming year and beyond.

2. Ford is going to run advertisements in the gay media NOT ONLY promoting the Jaguar and Land Rover brands, but the ads will promote ALL of Fords brands, by name, including Jaguar and Land Rover.

3. Ford states unequivocally that it will continue to tailor its ads for the specific audience it is trying to reach, and then goes one step further. Ford challenges us to keep an eye out on their upcoming ads in order to verify that they will in fact be tailored.

There is no other way to read this than that Ford did the right thing. Whether or not an agreement was reached with the American Family Association – and the AFA has a record of crowing about such “victories” when no such victory occurred (sounds a lot like our president) – Ford has rectified the real or perceived problem, and the AFA has been shown to have no clothes (other than a very rusty chastity belt).

The thanks for this goes out to all of you. YOU did this. WE did this, together. And the we doesn’t just include everyone who writes on and reads this blog. It includes the entire blogosphere who helped on this issue. It includes – yes, I’m serious – the gay civil rights groups who did the right thing here, stepped up to the plate, coordinated as they never have before, and stood firm against a bully. And finally, part of the credit goes to Ford and its brands (and I strongly suspect its employees as well). They could have told us to go to hell. They could have decided it was smarter to embrace intolerance and bigotry, but they didn’t. Ford chose to embrace fairness and equality, Ford chose to embrace the values that doesn’t just make American corporations great, they’re the values that make America great.

Today, we all won.

Here is the text of Ford’s letter:

December 14, 2005

Matt Foreman, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Joe Solmonese, Human Rights Campaign
Neil Giuliano, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
Craig Bowman, National Youth Advocacy Coalition
Jody Huckaby, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
Alexander Robinson, National Black Justice Coalition
Jeff Montgomery, Triangle Foundation

Dear Friends:

Thank you again for taking the time to speak with us on Monday. In my view, it was the start of a valuable and healthy dialogue, and I was pleased to be there on behalf of Bill Ford, Chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company.

My intention was to be as direct and forthright. You deserve no less. I appreciate your candor in return. I’d like to take this opportunity to review the information we shared face-to-face and to tell you how our thinking has evolved.

You asked us specifically to reaffirm our principles of nondiscrimination and inclusiveness. We agreed, without any reservations, and issued a statement immediately after the meeting in which Bill Ford did so personally. We pointed out that Ford Motor Company and its brands value diversity among all of our constituents and pride ourselves on strong and clear values – respect for our customers, communities, employees, suppliers and dealers; acceptance of our differences; inclusion of different people with different perspectives; and integrity. That commitment is unchanged and we believe it is reflected in our policies, practices and marketing.

You asked us to comment on reports that we had placed creative restrictions on the way our brands could speak to gay and lesbian audiences. We expect our brands to create advertising that supports their brand image and is appropriate and effective in connecting with the intended audience. That is unchanged. But we do not have to deal with this topic in the abstract. The best answer to your question will be in the ads themselves. I would ask you to judge our intent by what you see.

You asked directly whether Ford Motor Company will continue to support nonprofit groups and events in the GLBT community. While we will still support certain events, I know you understand that the business situation will limit the extent of our support in all communities in 2006. We will continue all of our workplace policies and practices in support of Ford GLOBE members and supporters. That is unchanged.

You asked directly for us to have Jaguar and Land Rover reverse its plans and advertise in gay and lesbian targeted publications in 2006. As we said, Jaguar and Land Rover 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. 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/Land Rover but all eight of Ford’s vehicle brands. As we have said, the content will be appropriate and effective in connecting with the intended audience. 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.

Finally, you expressed your strong objections to our having even met with one of your harshest critics. 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. Our record on tolerance and inclusion speaks for itself and I am proud to be judged on that record at any time.

In closing, thank you again for your candor and professionalism. We listened and learned, and hope that you continue to understand the values and commitments of Ford Motor Company. I look forward to hearing from you at any time.

Sincerely,

Joe Laymon


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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