Old Media Does Ford No Favors by Ignoring the American Family Assn. Boycott

April 22nd, 2007 10:49 AM

Is The Ford Motor Company committing an Old-Media-assisted suicide?

On Wednesday, One News Now had a story about how the Formerly Mainstream Media has largely ignored the negative impact the the American Family Association's boycott of Ford has had on the company (an audio version of the report is also at the link):

News media ignoring Ford boycott, media analyst says

An analysis of media coverage on the widespread boycott of Ford Motor Company by more than 18 pro-family groups for the last year is leading the Culture and Media Institute (CMI), the organization that conducted that analysis, to conclude that the boycott appears to be the victim of major neglect from news outlets. The Institute has published a report titled "Media Ignore Ford Boycott" [PDF] for its website.

Spokesperson Kristen Fyfe says the report details, among other things, how secular media treated Ford's loss of more than $12 billion in 2006, blaming the losses primarily on a poor sport-utility vehicle market and the rising cost of gasoline.

"We're not saying that that isn't the case," Fyfe notes, "but the fact that 700,000 people have signed a pledge not to buy Ford products, the fact that 75 dealers in Texas have told the company that they're making a big mistake by ignoring family values is a big story that the media [are] not covering." In June 2006, she notes, a group representing 75 North Texas Ford dealers sent a letter to their corporate headquarters asking the company to rethink what CMI calls a policy of "aggressive sponsorship" of homosexual activism.

..... The mainstream media have ignored reporting on Ford's choice to continue supporting homosexual advertising and sponsorships, despite hurting local dealerships and mainstream American auto buyers, Fyfe asserts."

Though I have often felt that Wildmon and the AFA play the boycott card a bit indiscriminately, there is no denying that they have hit the bullseye on the Ford boycott. Ford, by digging in its heels and continuing to devote precious management energy and time to politically correct causes (and therefore less to turning its business around), may be putting its very existence at stake.

The AFA's home page says that over 693,000 people have signed AFA's online petition. While it would be easy to underestimate AFA's influence based on that "small" number of online signers, it would be a big mistake:

  • First, it's likely that each signer has direct or near-direct influence over about four other potential car buyers.
  • Second, the boycott's home page indicates that 33 organizations, including at least a few with national influence, are behind the boycott.
  • Third, it is likely that many, if not most, of those participating in the boycott are married with children. These are the people who buy the more expensive, and more profitable, SUVs and minivans.

So it is not unreasonable to believe that 15-20 million Americans -- perhaps 10% of the adult population -- are participating in the boycott, and that those who are boycotting are the very customers Ford so desperately needs.

But is the boycott really having an impact on Ford, or is the problem, as Old Media and the company clearly believe (and want us to believe), entirely in the company's product line? Global Insight, in a Same-Day Analysis report released in early January, backed into the answer when it made these contrasting points about Ford and General Motors:

..... Arguably the carmaker in the most trouble at the moment, Ford saw its December sales fall 13% from December 2005, which it blames largely on three specific models: the F-Series pick-up, Taurus sedan, and Freestar minivan. The F-Series continues to struggle, which Ford blames on economic conditions continuing to provide a significant headwind. Ford sales analyst George Pipas attributes the continued struggles of the F-Series to a continued soft housing market and higher gas prices instead of any competitive pressure.

..... However, if the truck market is as soft as Ford says it is, apparently nobody has told General Motors (GM). ..... The company is claiming a 90% retention rate for the full-size pick-up and expects its model mix for 2007 to continue to prominently feature trucks, with a total industry volume anticipated of 2.5 million pick-ups. GM is quick to point out that the combined Silverado/Sierra pick-up outsold the Ford F-Series in 2006 by nearly 70,000 units.

Hmm. GM's doing fine with its trucks and Ford isn't. Ford makes excuses about a "soft housing market and higher gas prices," while GM improves. I wonder why?

As to the bottom line, GM returned to overall profitability in the fourth quarter of 2006 even after considering "special items," while Ford reported the largest full-year loss ($12.7 billion) in the company's history.

Back to Old Media's role -- Here is what the CMI's PDF report had to say about media coverage of that record loss (bold is mine):

A Nexis search reveals that between the day the deficit was announced, Thursday, January 25, 2007, and the following Sunday, January 28, the media carried 653 items in various outlets about Ford’s woes. Curiously, none mentioned the boycott. Over the past year, the boycott has garnered little or no coverage in traditional business news reports.

By failing to entertain even the possibility that AFA's Ford boycott may be impacting the company's operations in any business-section reporting and analysis, Old Media is helping the company's "corporate social responsibility" management and culture to remain comfortable in their belief that they can fix the products, and thereby fix the company, without changing the culture. Old Media neglect in reporting the boycott's impact is helping to postpone an absolutely essential internal day of reckoning in Dearborn. Postpone it long enough, and the Ford Motor Company may and Ford may drive itself to ruin.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.