The India branch of Ford Motor Co. and the ad agency WPP apologized Monday for a set of offensive mock-up advertisements showing voluptuous women bound and gagged in the back seat of a Ford Figo.
According to CNN, the images were part of “a creative exercise by a team that was submitting for an ad competition,” but were regrettably uploaded to the Internet. They never made it to an actual Ford campaign, but Ford’s India Unit still said in an email:
“We deeply regret this incident…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.”
The Huffington Post continues:
Featuring Ford’s logo, one ad showed three women bound and gagged in the trunk of an Indian-made compact, the Ford Figo, with [former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi] smiling from the driver’s seat alongside the slogan “Leave your worries behind with the Figo’s extra-large boot.”
Similar ads featured Paris Hilton apparently kidnapping reality television rivals the Kardashian sisters – all three sisters tied up and one in a bikini – and Formula One driver Michael Schumacher abducting his male racing competition. [Emphasis added]
Posted on the website adsoftheworld.com late Friday, the mock-ups caused an international uproar — particularly in the wake of a series of horrifying gang rapes in the country.
“This is a really perverse-looking campaign, especially with all the incidents against women in India,” Deepesh Rathore, New Delhi-based managing director for IHS Automotive in India, told Bloomberg. “The Internet has the power to make a stupid thing go viral and so companies need to be very, very careful as such incidents can blemish your brand image.”
WPP further added that the images “were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency…[they] were never intended for paid publication and should never have been created, let alone uploaded to the Internet.”