AUBURN HILLS, MI: Any mixture of car advertising and gay lifestyle seems to be a recipe for trouble for automakers these days.
In 2005, the American Family Association's (AFA) called for a boycott of Ford because of the automaker's support for gay issues. Ford pulled its advertising from gay- and lesbian-themed magazines claiming it was a business decision. Two weeks later the automaker reversed its decision.
Then BMW two weeks ago was lambasted by a Gay-focused website for being hypocritical by advertising in the same magazines, but not offering same-sex couple benefits to employees.
This week, it's Chrysler's ad for the 2007 Dodge Caliber that has raised hackles among gay rights advocates.
The ad, created by BBDO Worldwide, is entitled "Too Tough" and features a fairy using her wand to turn a tough-looking guy with a big dog into a pastel-clad man walking four small dogs on pink leashes.
Gay advocates say the male character in the ad has stereotypically gay characteristics and that "fairy" is a belittling term used to describe a homosexual man.
"This guy looks pretty gay to me," said Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the Detroit-based Triangle Foundation, a group promoting rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people, in a story in Thursday's Detroit Free Press. "I'm willing to believe they didn't intend it to be a gay man, but I don't believe they're shocked someone would draw that conclusion."
Suraya Dasante, PR manager for Chrysler Jeep and Dodge communications, said DaimlerChrysler was stunned by the gay community's reaction.
"We are surprised that the gay community, a community that has worked so hard to end stereotyping would make the conclusion about an individual's sexual orientation based solely on their clothing and the type of dog they're walking," Dasante said. "I would turn it around and ask the gay community if they're suggesting that all men who wear light colored shirts, white shorts and knee socks are gay. Or are they suggesting that all gay men dress alike? Or is the gay community saying that individuals who wear work boots and jeans and have large dogs can't be gay?"
While the company is currently committed to continuing the ad, Dasante said the agency was monitoring the situation.
"We always keep a close eye on things. And it's clearly never our intent to offend any consumer or potential consumer," Dasante said "I would never say anything's impossible."