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The Ford Motor Company has become the first to enter the U.S. market with a gay-specific ad.

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Complete Coverage Gay Mundo

The Commercial Closet

Jaguar Stalks Gay Market

by Michael Wilke

NEW YORK, JANUARY 2, 2003. Years after the Big Three auto makers of the United States began giving equal company benefits to lesbians and gay men, the Ford Motor Company has become the first to enter the market with a gay-specific ad, via its luxury brand Jaguar. Ford's competitor, DaimlerChrysler, has recently announced interest in gay buyers, but has not yet begun any efforts.

The Jaguar print ad features a winding road with the text, "Life is full of twists and turns. Care for a partner?" A smiling man is featured, along with a close-up of a grill from a silver Jaguar X-Type. The ad will run in a January issue of The Advocate and February issues of OUT and Metrosource magazines.

In 1994, Saab became the first carmaker anywhere to seek the gay dollar, but ad spending in the auto category for the gay market is currently dominated by Subaru, which in 1996 initiated a gay-specific campaign, and has had a consistent presence in gay media and events ever since. General Motors' Saturn began a campaign for the gay dollar in 1999 using general market ads with no specially created gay message, as did Volkswagen this year.

Ground-breaking Survey
Before embarking on its campaign, Ford hired Witeck-Combs Communications, Washington, D.C., to create substantial proprietary market research about how the company's brands perform with lesbians and gays. With Harris Interactive, Witeck-Combs surveyed 1,000 in the gay community and 1,000 heterosexuals to compare tastes.

The information was shared with all Ford brand executives, including Jaguar, Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo, Mazda and Land Rover. Acquired by Ford in 1989, Jaguar is its first brand with gay-specific advertising in the U.S., but others may follow. "It enables all the brands to learn from each other," notes Jaguar spokesman Simon Sproule.

Susan Pepper, marketing manager of Global Marketing at Ford, the second largest automaker, said, "It is highly likely to see at least one or two brands enter the (American) market or increase its activity in 2003." Because Ford brands Volvo and Land Rover already advertise in the gay media, it is unclear if they will expand their presence, or if domestic brands like Ford, Lincoln or Mercury would seek gay buyers. "It is yet to be determined," Pepper said.

Although the gay community's spending power and interest in luxury goods attracted Jaguar, brand executives decided to begin with the entry-level X-Type, which runs $30,000 and up. "We're democratizing luxury. This car is about making Jaguar accessible, not just the reward at the end of a successful life," says Sproule.

Surprising Choice By Gay Focus Groups
A number of examples were tested — some overtly gay, others more subtle — to determine how "GLBT-specific to make an ad," explains Wes Combs of Witeck-Combs. "There's no need to just use guesswork," the default tactic companies often apply to the gay market. The somewhat surprising result was that gay focus groups preferred the more subtle approach for Jaguar.

"The ad chosen was one that scored very high," explains Howard Buford, president of New York agency Prime Access, which created the campaign. "For people who are not gay, life can be very linear: you go to school, graduate, get married, have a baby. The twists in the road analogy, and the idea of having a partner to go through them with, was very meaningful to our target audience. They tend to be at a life stage that finding a partner is very meaningful to them."

While it is the first gay Jaguar advertisement, it is not the brand's first marketing effort. In 1999, Jaguar sponsored the GLAAD Media Awards. "We got to know the consumer through events first, which allowed us to hear from them what turns them on and off," says Sproule. "We're still dipping our toe in the water to see what the best way (to reach the market) is. We need to do more, and we're on a long committed road with this very important market."

Gay Ford, Volvo and Mazda Efforts Overseas
Overseas, several Ford brands have already sought gay buyers. Since 2000, Mazda has pursued the "pink pound" of gay buyers in England. Volvo ads began appearing in Genre in 2001, with gay-specific ones in Australia's Blue magazine in 2002, including the declaration that "Volvos are no longer straight." Ford Motor became a sponsor of European Gay Pride in Cologne, Germany, featuring a print ad of a close-up of two men holding hands.

In this new initiative, Ford is among few corporations who have wisely invested in significant original research to learn about its specific brands on the market, as well as which creative approaches work best. The data resulted in a rare gay-specific approach. Those entering the gay market now, like Ford, must also come in smarter, and then hit a higher bar to get noticed.

Mike Wilke's Commercial Closet column covers gay issues in advertising, marketing and media. For 85 years of gay images worldwide see

Related links:

From The Commercial Closet

For the Jaguar ad, Life is full of twists and turns. Care for a partner?

For the article DaimlerChrysler and Ford Give Gay Market a Test Drive, July 29, 2002

For the Ford ad As if we only think about cars released at the European Gay Pride in Cologne, Germany.

For Complete Coverage Gay Mundo

Gay Mundo
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