April 22, 2007

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

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 Ford may drive itself to ruin.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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8 Comments

  1. Why don’t the once Big Three immediately start the change over to all ELECTRIC…they have the technology NOW..
    Yes, all the luxuries can stay…Nothing changes in the assembly line except the electric engine which is lighter and cheaper and EVER LAST battery…
    They once again take the world leadership in transportation and eliminate Halliburton, BP, Exxon, Chevron and Conoco..they’d be happy in dumping their stock and buying totally into the auto industry..
    They’re hooked up now in directing and keeping the gas guzzlers and their CEO GREED.
    Now’s the time…It will also be the beginning of saving our planet, rather than destroy it for GREEDY C.E.O.’s who just don’t seem to steal enough of employee investments in the phoney stock market
    That’s all that seems to matter, the paper stock market..it will collapse once again and these people will keep ruling the world with their Hard currency holding in the off shore banks, which will also collapse.

    Comment by Rene Harp — April 22, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

  2. #1, if electrics had what it takes to please consumers they would have viably made it to market by now. There are too many worldwide car companies (and independent entrepreneurs) for someone not to have done it if it could have been done.

    The “please consumers” part is the hardest.

    Comment by TBlumer — April 22, 2007 @ 7:33 pm

  3. I’m a little confused as to how you get from 693,000 to 15-20 million American car buyers. Even if each signer does have a “direct or near direct influence over four other potential car buyers”(source?), that gets you to only about 3.5 million car buyers.

    Comment by John in IL — April 22, 2007 @ 9:40 pm

  4. Good question. From the 3.5 million, you would need to look at the memberships of AFA and 33 orgs who are going along with the boycott. AFA alone has three million members. If you make what I think is a very conservative assumption that the others have one million more (after eliminating membership overlaps), that makes 4 million. Subtract out the 700,000 boycott signers, and you have 3.3 mil. So I’m up to 6.5 million or so.

    If each of the additional 3.3 mil influences three others, you’re additing 9.9 mil more to get to 16.4 mil, which is “between 15-20 mil.”

    Of course it’s not scientific but I think it’s defensible, and perhaps even way low. One of the things I’ve ignored is the potential impact of Sunday church sermons and bulletins about this issue that may reach people who otherwise aren’t members of any organization or influenced by them.

    Comment by TBlumer — April 22, 2007 @ 10:10 pm

  5. So I’m up to 6.5 million or so

    You’re double counting. The 3.5 million people include the people influenced by the signers. You can’t add that number (less the signers) to the total membership of the AFA and similar organizations (minus overlaps) to get the number of people who can then influence additional people.

    Comment by John in IL — April 22, 2007 @ 11:50 pm

  6. #5, I’m thinking that other AFA members are NOT among those directly influenced by the signers. Obviously there’s potential for overlap.

    What I also haven’t mentioned is the influence of evangelical talk radio and Christian stations, which I would expect to have mentioned the boycott by now to its audience, which collectively is in the millions and reaches some people not reached in the other ways cited.

    What would be REALLY interesting is to see how those Texas dealerships’ sales have suffered compared to Ford dealers as a whole, after taking into account things like population change and relative regional economic performance.

    Comment by TBlumer — April 23, 2007 @ 4:22 am

  7. Are you being serious?

    Comment by frank — April 23, 2007 @ 4:51 pm

  8. #7, The question is whether Ford will take the serious issue of the AFA boycott seriously, or if it will instead volunteer to go under in the name of “corporate social responsibility.”

    They owe their employees, shareholders, suppliers, and customers better.

    Comment by TBlumer — April 23, 2007 @ 9:56 pm

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