Ford made headlines recently, but not in the most positive light. The car manufacturer received some bad press and criticism for a series of ads that were seen as offensive and violent against women. The ad campaign was created by J. Walter Thompson (JWT), their advertising agency in India. As The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets report, “Ford did not approve the ads; the agency was publishing some speculative renderings to show off its creative chops” (Memmott, 2013). The ads are for the Ford Figo; a model that is known for having a spacious trunk. Three ads have circulated, one that features former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one that features Paris Hilton, and another with Formula One driver Michael Schumacher. All three figures appear in the front seat of the Figo, while three other characters are featured in the trunk tied, gagged and stuffed in the trunk of the car. The ads tag line “Leave your worries behind with Figo’s extra large boot” (Memmott, 2013).
Immediately Ford followers took to social media outlets to criticize the company. One woman said on Ford’s Facebook page: “Your company is a disgrace to publish such a vulgar and violent ad against women. You will never get our business. Shame on you!” (Facebook, 2013). Last December a young woman in India was raped and murdered, allegedly by five men. The incident sparked an international uproar about violence against women (NPR, 2013).
Even though Ford has said the ads were not approved for public distribution, they have been exposed globally! I find the ads offensive and tasteless. It’s a misuse of creativity and shines a bad light on the advertising industry as a whole. Furthermore I am alarmed that given the recent news in India surrounding rape, JWT’s Indian affiliate would create such a grotesque campaign. While JWT’s parent company WPP Plc, based in London, has apologized for the ads, I was unable to find a formal apology or message on their website. As we have learned so far this semester, creating a successful and effective ad campaign takes a lot of effort and research. But I wonder, what were the conversations during the creation of these ads? What ‘big idea’ were they trying to convey?
Even though these ads did not go public, is this an acceptable form of creative expression?
Welsh, J. (2013, March 23). Ford Apologizes for Offensive ‘Berlusconi’ Figo Ads. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 25, 2013 from http://blogs.wsj.com/drivers-seat/2013/03/23/ford-apologizes-for-offensive-berlusconi-figo-ads/
Memmott, M. (2013, March 25). Ford Sorry For Mocked-up Ads in India Showing Bound and Gagged Women. NPR News. Retrieved March 25, 2013 from http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/03/25/175251760/ford-sorry-for-mocked-up-ads-in-india-showing-bound-and-gagged-women
Philip, S. (2013, March 25). Ford Apologizes After Mock Ads of Berlusconi Tying Up Women. Bloomberg. Retrieved March 25, 2013 from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-25/ford-apologizes-after-mock-ads-of-berlusconi-tying-up-women.html
NPR (2013, February 2). In India, Men Accused of Deadly Rape Formally Charged. Retrieved March 25, 2013, from http://www.npr.org/2013/02/02/170947140/in-india-men-accused-of-deadly-rape-formally-charged
J. Walter Thompson. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.jwt.com/jwtdelhi