UPDATE: Orbitz Responds to Our Email About the DropFox Campaign

Yesterday, we reported on the ongoing DropFox campaign that has been targeting Orbitz for their advertising on generally anti-gay Fox News. It has become quite the issue, fueled by pundits on both sides of the political spectrum, as well as banner ads purchased by Media Matters across the Internet.

I weighed in, calling on Orbitz to realize that their position as a leader in LGBT marketing and gay rights holds them to a higher standard than other companies that also advertise on Fox News – such as Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Walgreens and others.

The visibility of being a leader is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, you are creating goodwill by being a vanguard, but on the other, you are more vulnerable to critics from every angle.

Orbitz has long been known as a consistent supporter of the gay community, and it was indeed incredible to watch that goodwill be so quickly challenged by DropFox.

To me, this is just another example of how insanely divisive Fox News is to this country. Yet, I felt that Orbitz was not communicating effectively regarding the issue. They sounded more defiant rather than understanding of why the LGBT community felt violated by the sudden awareness of Orbitz’s advertising on Fox News.

So I sent an e-mail to Brian Hoyt, who is Orbitz’s VP for Corporate Communications and Government Affairs, which is reposted below. Brian responded, and has encouraged me to share his response with our readers. I think it’s essential to not instantly burn Orbitz at the stake – this should be a part of an ongoing conversation about what it means to market to the LGBT community, and how where a company advertises can reflect on the company’s true values, morals and ethics.

No decision is an easy one in business, but each decision has consequences – some of which are more clear than others. If you believe that companies that market to the gay community should not advertise on platforms that attack us, then also put pressure on the rest of the companies that advertise on Fox News. Orbitz, as a market leader, should consider the implications of their ad buys – but so should every single company that advertises on Fox News while also considering itself gay-friendly.

My letter:

Brian

My name is Nick Vivion, and I run Unicorn Booty. We are a top gay blog, and, with 55,000+ people, the most followed gay blog on social media in the world. I am also a travel journalist and the inaugural Gay Travel Guru for GayTravel.com.

I have been following this DropFox thing, and just sat down to write a brief piece on it. But now it’s looking like I need to get some comment directly from Orbitz, especially with Bill O’Reilly jumping on board last night. He broadcast a statement you made, with the heading “Orbitz Defends Fox News.” Yikes. This is bad. Bill O’Reilly is a bigot, and he uses his platform at Fox News to regularly demonstrate this. I could send over dozens of videos, but I’m sure you have already seen them all. Huckabee compares homosexuality to incest, drug use, etc, and uses his show to rail on gay marriage. The channel constantly insists that DADT is necessary – even though the Joint Chiefs and President say otherwise.

Basically, Fox News regularly broadcasts disinformation that really, truly impacts the gay community. It hurts. We do not have equal rights in this country, and Fox News is making it harder ever day to achieve federal equal rights. I cannot marry my partner – who is also my business partner at Unicorn Booty – and every time I watch another clip or read something else hateful that happened on Fox News, I cringe.

In your TRUTH press release, you point to your consistent support of the gay community. You point to winning the 2008 GLAAD award, to the many commercials, and to the many millions you have donated. All of this is in support of the community that you hope will spend money on your Gay Orbitz travel portal. This is commendable, but remember that past actions are no Band-Aids for current situations.

Gay travelers have to truly feel like a company supports their community – we are fiercely loyal and expect companies that we patronize to be as well. Your support of Fox News via ad dollars is not consistent with your prior support of our community, and while I respect your right to advertise to a broad audience, this is a compromise that you make when you market directly to the LGBT community. You cannot market to us, ask for our money, and not expect outrage when we feel cheated. We have been victimized for so long that this sort of reaction is simply the inbuilt reaction of a persecuted minority. We’re loud, we’re proud, and sometimes we go over board – but only because we feel a loyalty to causes that matter to us.

You also mention that you got flack for advertising on LOGO, and that you didn’t back down then. LOGO, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have attacks on one particular group of people on it. Sure, it’s liberal, but it doesn’t actually advocate one point of view or another. Fox News is just simply so divisive, and over 30 Fox Newsers have donated to GOP candidates – including millions by News Corp. That’s hardly not taking sides!

I understand that you want to reach their audience, but sometimes you have to take a stand. Orbitz has stood with the gay community when not many other companies would, and you have been a leader. Dropping Fox News would make you a leader once again – gays do not want to even think of their dollars going to Fox via ad revenues.

As a small business owner, filmmaker, and freelancer myself, I understand the nuances of marketing. I am not some siloed journalist or kitchen blogger. I get it. I also get that when you choose to market to us, you have to understand that our money comes with a caveat. If we feel cheated, attacked, or unsupported, we will react. Sometimes it is knee-jerk, and sometimes it takes the right confluence of circumstances to make the gay community aware of an issue (as I’m sure you’ve been advertising on Fox News for awhile), but we still stand behind our beliefs as loudly and visibly as possible. We do not have equal rights in this country, and this is what we have to do to make an impact. While you might not want to take sides as an advertiser, we do as consumers. And we choose fairness, equality, and gay rights – things that Fox News does not stand for.

If you’d like to give a reaction to “Orbitz Defends Fox News,” I will gladly include it in my piece. I haven’t found much more than some defiant soundbites that don’t do anything to address the LGBT community’s concerns. I have also included a couple of questions that I have. I will be posting within the hour, so please do pass along anything you’d like to share. We are honestly trying to create an open dialogue here, as these discussions are only positive for all involved.

All the best,

Nick Vivion

Our questions for Orbitz:

1. In your statement, you said that Orbitz does not take sides politically. Does Orbitz’s support of Fox News via ad revenues imply that you support the content of the Fox News Channel?

2. What do you say to those in the LGBT community that believe supporting Fox News via ad revenues is tantamount to supporting the perspectives aired on the channel?

3. Bill O’Reilly called Orbitz “patriots” and that you stand for “freedom.” What do you say to those in the LGBT community that are asking Orbitz to stop advertising on Fox News?

4. What do you say about those who point to the inconsistency in purchasing of ads on FNC with the consistency of Orbitz’s support of the gay community over the past decade?

5. The general tone from Orbitz seems defiant (see your own tweets, and quotes in the Hollywood Reporter). Why is that?

Brian’s response:

Nick:

I appreciate your email. You seem resolute in your position that what Orbitz is doing within our marketing program is inconsistent with our work for 10 years to support the rights of those within the LGBT community. We can appreciate your point of view. We all accept that there are many others who share your opinion. Orbitz respectfully disagrees with the assertion that because we serve a diverse customer base and because we promote our brand to those customers, that we’re somehow abandoning our core principles as a business.

That said, especially considering your credibility as a leading blogger within the LGBT community, I’m glad that we’re personally engaging on this issue.

We at Orbitz appreciate a respectful debate about our advertising practices, but this dialogue – thanks to interested parties on both sides of this matter – has moved beyond respectful. Sideshow press attacks. Profane name calling . Nasty phone calls, tweets and Facebook posts (which we have left up when others like American Airlines have suppressed comments about this issue). Many on the right and left are trying to turn our brand into a political football. And we refuse to play in that game.

Dozens of brands advertise on Fox News Channel, from American Airlines to Intel to Walgreens, many of which have as long a history supporting the LGBT community as Orbitz (if not longer!). But the organizers of this political grassroots organization – instead of choosing to engage in productive dialogue – chose to launch a sneak attack and smear campaign against just us at Orbitz right out of the gate. They want to discredit our work within the LGBT community, try to embarrass and shame our employees and we won’t stand for such bullying tactics that care more about using our brand to get headlines and fundraise than they do about fighting for the equal rights of all peoples. That is why HRC didn’t join their campaign…and it is why GLAAD (concerned with the tactics of this group…not their message) also dropped out of the DropFox campaign.

You would never know from some of the comments that have been made (and misquotes) that we are on the same side of fighting for tolerance and policies that support non-discrimination and equality. This situation has turned into the definition of trying to eat your own, and that is sad.

This same conversation I am having with you now is the same type of dialogue I’ve had with groups who disapproved of our work within the LGBT community, and I can appreciate you disagree with the parallel situations as you mentioned in your email. That being said, I’ve said the same thing to you that I’ve said to many others before. We believe tolerance is a two way street. It means that at times we agree to disagree (like now), but it doesn’t change who we are as a company. Our marketing – as a reflection of that tolerance – means we serve a diverse customer base, and we will continue to promote our brand to the customers who watch Fox and CNN and MSNBC and Bloomberg and CNBC, etc. It means we will promote our brand on ESPN and Bravo and LOGO and other channels on your TV. At the same time, we in no way condone language that is inconsistent with our core believes and we will continue to work (despite these boycotts) to create a more accepting culture that values the LGBT community as equals.

Let me, as best as I can, answer some of your specific questions:

1. In your statement, you said that Orbitz does not take sides politically. Does Orbitz’s support of Fox News via ad revenues imply that you support the content of the Fox News Channel?

Orbitz’ focus on promoting tolerance, non-discrimination and equality means we don’t pass judgment on the politics, religion, race, sexual orientation or gender identity of our customers. Our diverse customer base means we will promote our brand wherever their remote control lands.

2. What do you say to those in the LGBT community that believe supporting Fox News via ad revenues is tantamount to supporting the perspectives aired on the channel?

I would ask our customers in the LGBT community to look at our 10 year history of fighting for equal rights. I would tell them to look at our 100% rating from the HRC’s “Corporate Equality Index.” I would tell them to look at the awards our marketing program has received from GLAAD where we were one of the first advertisers to include gay characters in our mainstream advertising (ads that ran on FNC). I would tell them to look at the millions of dollars we’ve given to charities in the community. And I would ask them to consider that our focus on equality is total, that we will continue to engage even those that have opinions that differ from our core beliefs in the hopes that we can work towards creating more tolerant society that respects the equal rights of all peoples.

3. Bill O’Reilly called Orbitz “patriots” and that you stand for “freedom.” What do you say to those in the LGBT community that are asking Orbitz to stop advertising on Fox News?

I would tell our customers in the LGBT community that I hope Mr. O’Reilly still thinks we are patriots when we refuse to bow to the next boycott that attempts to get us to stop advertising within the LGBT media – from LOGO to the Advocate to GayTravel.com – or with someone on the liberal side of TV dial who gets vocal against those with Elephants on their key chains. That said, we have customers from all corners of the globe, and we intend to promote our brand in a way that is as diverse as our customer base.

4. What do you say about those who point to the inconsistency in purchasing of ads on FNC with the consistency of Orbitz’s support of the gay community over the past decade?

I would tell them Orbitz has been nothing but consistent from Day 1 and refer them to my request from question #2.

5. The general tone from Orbitz seems defiant (see your own tweets, and quotes in the Hollywood Reporter). Why is that?

We care deeply about our relationship with the LGBT community, and we will defend that relationship and work to mend any broken fences while we stand by our core principles. Our tone – that admittedly has a touch of anger and disappointment – is the result of dealing with the tired tactics of these shady so-called non-profit fringe groups like the one that attacked Orbitz and others that have tried to distort our record. They’re very existence is dependent on creating a firestorm to create headlines and raise funds so they might justify their relevance. If they cared about the end result, as we do, their approach would be different. We know who we are as company. And we will continue to dialogue with legitimate organizations within the LGBT community, like GLAAD and HRC, as we productively move our mutual cause of equality forward.

I hope this helps.

Best,

Brian Hoyt

Orbitz.com

(For a list of Fox News’ anti-LGBT rhetoric, visit DropFox)

(Visited 11 times, 1 visits today)