[UPDATE: Ford has restored the video to Youtube. More details here.]
Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes reports in a column that Ford has pulled its controversial “bailout ad” after the White House asked “questions” about it. And apparently the take-down decision makes this a threatened piece of footage: in addition to yanking the spot from the airwaves, the version of the video we posted two weeks ago has been taken down from YOutube as well [a home recording of it can still be found here]. So what happened that Ford would throw its most popular ad in ages down the memory hole? Howes is cryptic…
Ford pulled the ad after individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy CEO Alan Mulally repeatedly supported in the dark days of late 2008, in early ’09 and again when the ad flap arose…
With President Barack Obama tuning his re-election campaign amid dismal economic conditions and simmering antipathy toward his stimulus spending and associated bailouts, the Ford ad carried the makings of a political liability when Team Obama can least afford yet another one. Can’t have that.
The ad, pulled in response to White House questions (and, presumably, carping from rival GM), threatened to rekindle the negative (if accurate) association just when the president wants credit for their positive results (GM and Chrysler are moving forward, making money and selling vehicles) and to distance himself from any public downside of his decision.
In other words, where presidential politics and automotive marketing collide — clean, green, politically correct vehicles not included — the president wins and the automaker loses because the benefit of the battle isn’t worth the cost of waging it.
Who were these “individuals inside the White House?” What questions did they have for Ford? And why on earth would Ford not stand up for itself in this situation? That GM was “carping” about the ad only makes this worse: the White House wasn’t just trying to smooth over the campaign trail, it was protecting its investment (remember, the government still owns a significant stake in The General) by “asking” a competitor to kill a successful ad. So, just how aggressively did the White House “ask” about this ad? Again, Howes is cryptic:
“This thing is highly charged,” says an industry source familiar with the situation. Ford “never meant it to be an attack on the policy. There was not any pressure to take down the ad.”
Maybe not technically. But the nexus of politics and the auto business in today’s Washington is bigger, broader and more complex than it arguably has been in who knows how long.
Gosh, if I had a reporter in the White House press corps, I’d be sure to have them ask about this. After all, this situation highlights perfectly why bailouts are so un-American. I don’t care who you are or how you felt about the bailout in the first place: at the point that the President is pressuring competitors to government-owned companies to yank truth-telling ads, you’ve got to wonder what happened to this country.