Remember the Ford ad that featured a new buyer telling “reporters” that he chose Ford because bailouts aren’t “what America is all about?” Hope you watched it while you could, because the video has been removed from YouTube, and the ad has been pulled by Ford, too. The Detroit News’ Daniel Howes reports that Ford pulled the ad after getting a call from the White House (via Is This Blog On):
“I was going to buy from a manufacturer that’s standing on their own: win, lose, or draw. That’s what America is about is taking the chance to succeed and understanding when you fail that you gotta’ pick yourself up and go back to work.”
That’s what some of America is about, evidently. Because 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. And more.
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.
Howes makes a good point about Ford’s track record on “bailouts,” which isn’t nearly as clean as the ad suggests. Ford sought and received “billions” in government loans to retool its plants, which is probably why Ford’s CEO was such a vocal advocate for bailing out his rivals. Had Ford not failed prior to the collapse and hired Mulally to rescue it, Howes writes, Ford might well have lined up at the trough for the big bailouts in 2008 and 2009.
Still, the fact that the White House exerted pressure on Ford to cease and desist is a rather ominous example of why we want government to stay out of the business of running auto companies at all. In fact, government shouldn’t be running any businesses, not car makers, banks, or mortgage lenders. A free market doesn’t stay free when government begins competing in it, and just the mere existence of the ability to use its regulatory power to favor its own operation will distort market behavior in significant and freedom-chilling ways. Knocking an ad critical of government policy off of television and the Internet is simply a more visible symptom of those dangers.
Update: Ford is responding on its Facebook page that it didn’t pull the ad under pressure, but instead had it rotate out normally. That doesn’t explain why Ford pulled it from its YouTube account, though.
Update II: Actually, it appears that Ford deleted the ad and then reposted it on Friday, for some reason, where it now has only 305 views. Here it is again: