Ford issues public statement about anti-gay controversy
Last week, we were joined by a Ford dealer representative in a meeting with the American Family Association (AFA). Following the meeting, the AFA announced that it was ending its boycott of Ford Motor Company. The boycott, the purpose of which was to protest certain Ford marketing activities aimed at the gay and lesbian community, was announced in May and temporarily suspended in June.
Our latest discussions with the AFA cleared up a lot of misunderstanding about Ford's policies and practices. The AFA mentioned in its announcement that differences with Ford remain, which is true. But in our view the boycott ended because AFA leadership now has a better understanding of the principles that drive our company's policies as well as our wish to avoid politically and socially charged debates, which can only distract from our primary purpose -- to design, manufacture and sell the best vehicles we can.
The boycott was partly touched off by some ads produced and run in Europe, that some of our customers found offensive. Frankly, in retrospect we certainly could have marketed our product in a manner that was just as effective without offending anyone. We advised AFA that most of the ads were running outside of North America or no longer running.
We agreed to open a dialogue with the leadership of AFA, as we would with other groups who might represent views of our customers, so that we could better understand their concerns and share information about our marketing practices and policies in this country.
Here is some of what we shared in our discussions:
· We believe the surest way to avoid offending or antagonizing social, religious, political and cultural groups is to focus on product design, features and benefits in our advertising.
· When we portray customers in our ads, we strive to be diverse and respectful, and make the context relevant to the product. We don’t intend – directly or indirectly – to take sides on controversial or emotionally-charged social or moral issues.
· We reserve the right to advertise our brands and products wherever we think it makes business sense. This is something we spoke very candidly about with the AFA. Right now, Volvo has identified an opportunity to market directly to the gay and lesbian community but other brands have not.
· Decisions on where Ford's brands advertise are made for business reasons not as a social statement one way or another.
We also discussed with the AFA Ford's values as an employer and corporate citizen. Ford is proud of its record in dealing with people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and cultural or physical differences. These policies will not change.
Like any good business, we try to listen to all of our customers and learn from their input. But, in the end, it is not always possible to please everyone. In these cases we rely on open dialogue and take actions based on principles.
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