You are the head of the marketing department of a large, family owned company that sells a variety of goods such as kitchenware, furniture, household storage and other household items. You have worked at the company for the last eight years in the department and have built up an impressive portfolio of marketing campaigns that have been successful at increasing the visibility and market dominance of the company with respect to household goods. You are making an excellent salary, have managed to purchase a condo in the city where you live alone. One year ago you were promoted to the head of the department when the previous head retired and you’ve been learning the ins and outs of managing your team. You’ve had to do less designing of campaigns and have had to focus more on overseeing the work of the teams your are leading.
You had delegated one of the newer staff in the department, Marcus, to design an advertising campaign for a new set of high-end furnishings. You were impressed with his work at other companies when you hired him and you wanted to give him a chance to show what he could do. You think he did a great job at designing the ads. He did extensive and appropriate market analysis and a month ago you signed off approval for the television, newsprint and magazine ads which hit the public eye yesterday. The total cost of the ads was within budget, with the department spending just over $50,000, well within the $100,000 budget. You were very pleased to be under budget and thought Marcus was ready to handle even larger jobs given the depth of his research and sophisticated execution of the advertising campaign.
Late in the afternoon, you get a call from the owner, Donald, who is completely frustrated. The company is getting emails and calls from the public demanding that the ads be retracted and the person responsible fired. You are at first confused, but soon you realize what the fuss is about. Marcus had noted that gays and lesbians are actually a consumer demographic group that is not often targeted by marketers, yet generally has a higher disposable income than other demographic groups. He had used that information to make the choice to include both gay and lesbian couples in a few of the print ads and in one scene during the television spot. He rightly noted that most advertising doesn’t recognize the existence of gays and lesbians and ignores them as a consumer group, which he thought was unfair. Being gay himself, he appreciated being able to represent his community and had mentioned to you in passing he was really proud of the work he’d done for the both the company and his friends and community. He had thanked you for giving him the chance to have the freedom to design the ads the way he did. You had noted the inclusion of gay and lesbian images in the campaign and approved it.
Donald calls you in for a face to face meeting. He is visibly upset and angry. He points out that one group in particular, “One Million Customers,” has been using Twitter, Facebook and Yelp to write comments calling for boycotts based on the ‘unchristian’ values the ads promote. This group has been very successful at pressuring companies to pull out of advertising for television companies and to pull ads that they deemed ‘sinful’. Donald tells you that he does not want to company to associated with the gay community. “Our company is not a place to be promoting sexual lifestyles!” he shouts. He makes some unpleasant remarks about gays and lesbians, saying they are immoral and shouldn’t be allowed in public. Then he says he wants to know who worked on it and who made the decision to let it go public. You have a gut feeling he wants to terminate the contract of whoever made it and approved it.
What do you do?