NEW YORK – Ford Motor Co. (search) on Wednesday yanked a planned Super Bowl advertisement (search) that depicts a clergyman tempted by a new pickup truck after some victims of clergy sex abuse complained it made light of their trauma.
The company wants to keep the focus on its new truck model rather than any controversy, said Sara Tatchio, spokeswoman for Ford's Lincoln division.
The ad shows a set of car keys placed on a collection plate. The clergyman finds a new Lincoln Mark LT truck in the parking lot, and lovingly caresses the exterior.
The car's owner then enters the picture, with his little girl poking her head from behind him — the implication being she had dropped the keys in the plate. The clergyman hands over the keys, then is depicted adding the letters L-T to a message board advertisting an upcoming sermon, to spell lust.
The Chicago-based Survivors Networks of those Abused by Priests believed the little girl's presence in the ad with the clergyman and word "lust" had sexual overtones and that Lincoln was playing off the news of religious sex scandals to sell cars.
The survivors' group urged Ford to pull the ad and, within hours of their complaint, the company obliged.
"We're grateful for their prompt response," said Barbara Blaine, SNAP's president. "It shows their compassion and I think will spare lots of people a great deal of pain."
Tatchio said Lincoln had conducted consumer testing of the ad and had no trouble. The company also made certain the clergyman depicted could not be confused for a Catholic priest.
Before Ford made the decision not to run the ad, Tatchio suggested that because of their experiences, the critics were seeing things in the ad that weren't there.
"While we think it was a very unfortunate misunderstanding and were frankly surprised by the reaction of this one group, in the end" Ford decided it was more important to keep the focus on the truck, she said.
Lincoln hasn't decided whether the ad will run elsewhere. It wasn't cheap to produce: the company hired "The Cell" director Tarsem Singh to make the ad. Singer Cassandra Wilson and well-known producer Don Was recorded a version of the Billie Holiday song "Guilty" specifically for the background music.
It's also unclear whether Ford will use the space it reserved on the Super Bowl telecast for another ad, or seek a refund. Fox has been charging $2.4 million for 30-second ads on Sunday's Super Bowl telecast.
The ad was to launch an entire advertising campaign for the Mark LT, which will be available in Lincoln showrooms later this month.