with Ford representatives several
times and finally reached an agreement that would have ended the
boycott for good.
The AFA said Ford agreed to stop
making donations to organizations
that promote civil unions or same-sex
marriage and cease all advertising in
GLBT media outlets in the United
States, with the exception of $100,000
to be used by Volvo. Ford reneged on
the agreement, the AFA said, under
pressure from GLBT groups.
Ford declined to comment, but
Joe Laymon, group vice president for
corporate human resources,
addressed the company’s
support of the GLBT community in a December letter addressed to leaders of
seven GLBT groups.
Laymon said at the time
that the original decision to
stop advertising Jaguar and Land
Rover in GLBT publications was
based on business reasons—not pressure from the AFA. “It is clear there
is a misperception about our intent,”
he wrote. “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.” He
said he hoped the decision would
“remove any ambiguity about Ford’s
desire to advertise to all important
audiences and put this particular
issue to rest.”
Ford’s big problem was the
amount of time that elapsed
between the first news reports
about its advertising decision and
its pro-diversity statements,
Herrschaft says. For about a week and a half, no one
knew what to think.
“This was simply a matter of an important issue
falling through the cracks,” says Grant Lukenbill, managing director of the Equality Project, a consumer-,
employee- and investor-advocacy coalition that works
to advance the adoption of progressive policies. “The
same thing happened at Microsoft last year when the
company just wasn’t thinking.”
In April 2005, Microsoft decided not to support a
state bill that would have barred discrimination based
on sexual orientation, noting that its GLBT employees
were amply protected. But a local church leader
claimed that he had helped lead Microsoft to its conclusion, prompting some to believe Microsoft has
bowed to pressure from the religious right.
The bill, which had passed the House before
Microsoft’s decision was made public, was defeated by
a single vote in the Senate. Following weeks of criticism from inside and outside of the company’s
Redmond, Wash., headquarters, Microsoft announced
it would consider supporting future gay-rights efforts.
“It’s not because Microsoft became antigay,” Lukenbill
says of the company’s misstep. “They just underestimated
“This market, especially, is politically savvy, is
aware of what real support and real commitment
looks like, is not easily fooled by single decisions. Mark Tristan Ng, Wells Far”go
the importance of supporting a local issue.”
Similarly, Lukenbill says, “Ford is not anti-gay; they
just underestimated the value of advertising those
brands … Occasionally, companies make mistakes.”
Benefits of Supporting GLBTs
Companies that market directly to GLBT consumers
risk facing the wrath of socially conservative groups,
but they stand to gain the support of a consumer segment with higher discretionary income and greater
brand loyalty than the average American.
“The one thing you have is where you spend your
money,” says Todd Evans, president and CEO of
Rivendell Media, a Mountainside, N.J.–based company
that specializes in gay and lesbian media placement.
Additionally, there’s little evidence to support the idea
that these boycotts impact companies’ bottom lines.
“We started in 1979,” Evans says of Rivendell.
“There has always been a threat of a boycott of some
kind. There has never been to this day a successful