Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Equality is Job One

John in DC from AMERICAblog says, "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).
The letter from Ford:
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.


Joe Laymon
Affirming fairness and equality is just good business.

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