WILL BOYCOTTING MICKEY Mouse work? The American Family Assn., which has mounted consumer boycotts in the past, wants people to stay away from Walt Disney products. The flash point for the conservative group, which is joined by the Florida Baptist Convention: Disney's giving health insurance benefits to gay employees' partners. Among other gripes are alleged subliminal sexual messages in The Lion King (which Disney denies). Disney says it's simply treating all workers equally for health care.
But previous boycotts along the same lines have made little, if any, measurable impact financially. AFA says its four-year boycott of Kmart--due to Playboy and similar mags being stocked by the chain's Waldenbooks and Borders bookstores--helped push the retailer into selling the book units recently. Kmart says that was done purely to focus on its ailing core business. Per-store sales rose 20% at Borders and 5% at Waldenbooks during the period.
The boycotters have been slightly more effective pressuring companies to watch where they advertise. AFA mounted a 1993 boycott of S.C. Johnson & Son for running ads on such shows as Law & Order, objecting to perceived sex and violence. They stopped after the home products company pledged to better screen what episodes it places ads on. Yet it hasn't dropped any of the shows.