Ford Motors India apologized for an advertising blunder that had left Italy seething against an apparently distasteful ad campaign featuring its former premier, even as public outcry over the obscene ad campaign forced the car company to withdraw the ads.
Ford Motors' latest advertisement campaign for its Ford Figo car has sparked yet another controversy just when a diplomatic row between India and Italy was slowly fading off. The advertisement posters designed by advertising agency JWT India, showed a caricature of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi flashing a peace sign from the driver’s seat, while three scantily clad voluptuous women gagged and handcuffed are spotted stuffed in the car trunk.
The advertisement dubbed as “sexist” and “worst Ford ad ever” by media reports has the tagline: “Leave your worries behind with Figo's extra-large boot.” Apprently, the advertisement endeavored to highlight the extra-large boot space in Ford’s hatchback model.
See the pictures here.
In addition, the objectionable ad posters appeared to insinuate the legal charges Berlusconi is facing in connection with his infamous sex scandals and bunga bunga parties in his country.
Another version of the advertisement that features socialite Paris Hilton and Kardashian sisters also appears equally insipid. The poster has a caricature of Paris Hilton winking from the driver’s seat with the Kardashian trio – Kim Kardashian and her two sisters – gagged, bound and held captive in a Ford Figo boot.
A third version has Michael Schumacher kidnapping Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, and Lewis Hamilton in a similar fashion, according to a Huffington Post report.
Reportedly, the posters were leaked to the ‘Ads of the world’ website even before it was approved. Both Ford Motors and the WPP Group, which oversees the Indian wing JWT came under criticism over the apparently sexist ads and have apologized for the objectionable posters. The posters were subsequently removed from the websites.
WPP Group said in a statement: “We deeply regret the publishing of posters that were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within WPP Group. These were never intended for paid publication and should never have been created, let alone uploaded to the internet. This was the result of individuals acting without proper oversight and appropriate actions have been taken within the agency where they work to deal with the situation.”
“We deeply regret this incident and agree with our agency partners that it should have never happened. The posters are contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within Ford and our agency partners. Together with our partners, we are reviewing approval and oversight processes to help ensure nothing like this ever happens again,” Ford said in an email to Business Insider.
The controversial advertisement has come at a time when India is struggling to check rising crimes against women, which has irked the women's rights activists.
"They're comparing women with baggage, it's sexist and objectifies with semi-nude women with their hands tied. And it is at a time when Indian society is searching for respect and bodily integrity [for women] after the December 16th (gang-rape). It makes it harder to change men's attitudes to women. You don't do this when a whole nation is angry about rapes," Dr Ranjana Kumari, one of India's leading women's rights campaigners told the U.K.’s Telegraph.
Citing Daniele Santanche, formerly an undersecretary in Berlusconi's government, the Telegraph has reported: "Depicting women as prisoners in the car is stupid. Mr Berlusconi treats women as princesses, not prisoners."