Ford Ad Creates Uproar in India
Appearing on the website adsoftheworld.com, a print ad for Ford’s Figo has started uproar in India. The ad features former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, driving the Figo with a smile on his face. In the trunk of the car are three bound women. The text on the ad reads, “Leave your worries behind with Figo’s extra large boot.” The ad was published days after India approved a new law to punish sex crimes, following the fatal gang rape of a student in December. That attack sparked immense protests over the treatment of women in the country. The ad is one of three published online.
According to the Alaska Dispatch, it is presumed that the ad creators were hoping to capitalize on the anti-Italian sentiment in India while showing that the car has lots of trunk space. Critics have labelled the ad distasteful and misogynistic, highlighting the country’s current sensitivity to violence against women. "Ford India Needs to Fire Its Advertising Execs,'' read the headline on a slate.com blog while Indians on Twitter reacted with posts like "Disgusting!'' and "Shameful.''
According to The Globe and Mail, the Ford ads were created by individuals within JWT India, a unit of WPP Group PLC, one of world’s biggest advertising group. The company released a statement stating that they deeply regret the publishing of posters that were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency at JWT. JWT India stated that the individuals responsible did not go through the normal review process and since the incident the company has conducted an internal review which led to the firing of employees. In an article in India’s Economic Times, the company made a statement that the ads were never paid for and were not expected to be released.
Ford India also issued a statement expressing regret over the incident, but did not comment on whether it would take action against the agency. According to CTV News, Ford India spokeswoman said Monday that the company is investigating whether anyone at the automaker ever saw the print ads, which were never used commercially. Ford again today expressed its regret over the incident and said that it was reviewing approval and oversight processes to help ensure nothing like this ever happens again. Ford CEO, Alan Mulally, said yesterday in a Bloomberg TV interview that he doesn’t expect the automaker’s sales in India to be affected.
This is not the first time an ad sparked controversy. To me what is interesting here is how fast steps were taken to look into the matter and how quickly JWT reacted and let go of the employees responsible. By using social networking platforms like Twitter, Indians were able to quickly be heard. If only we could see the same speediness in other matters in the country.
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