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Reuters / December 17, 2002

DETROIT -- In a rare move by one of the Big 3, Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it was starting a U.S. advertising campaign that would pitch Jaguars to gay car buyers, noting the group's wealth and taste for luxury goods.

"Typically consumers in that market tend to have high disposable income, and they tend to have a higher tendency toward luxury brands in general ... Jaguar is a very natural fit," said Simon Sproule, chief spokesman for Ford's Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin brands in North America.

Ford said the campaign, starting this month and running until April, would target gay, lesbian and bisexual consumers through print ads that appear primarily in publications like Out magazine and The Advocate.

"It's a first for us, and we're pretty excited about it. We think there's a lot of upside potential," Sproule said.

Ford and other Detroit automakers or their foreign nameplates have advertised to gay markets outside the United States for some time, but forays with ads tailored for gay consumers in the U.S. market have been rare.

Gay-specific advertising would seem to make sound business sense, especially at a time when U.S. auto sales are slowing. Ford estimates the gay market is made up of more than 14 million consumers with a buying power of more than $450 billion.

The first print ad Ford is set to run as part of its campaign, created by Prime Access Inc. of New York, features images of winding country roads and the words "Life is full of twists and turns."

Inset, alongside the question, "Care for a partner?" is a picture of a lone young man and a separate image of a gleaming Jaguar X-Type sedan.

"The ideal companion takes many forms," the ad says.

It's a far cry from the macho swagger normally featured in advertising for America's automakers.

Mike Wilke, head of the Commercial Closet Association, a New York group that tracks advertising in the gay marketplace, criticized the ad as a bit too soft, saying the buzzword "partner" was the only thing that signaled something outside the mainstream.

But Wilke added that the ad was something of a breakthrough nonetheless.

"What is significant about it is that it is the first gay-specific American car company ad in this country," Wilke said.

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