Anyone attempting to measure the damage from a series of ads produced by Ford Motor Co.’s Indian ad agency showing women bound and gagged and tossed in the trunk of one of its Figo hatchbacks only had to catch the opening remarks by the carmaker’s global marketing chief Jim Farley at the 2013 New York Auto Show.
Farley shifted gears before going into his prepared remarks as the show’s keynote speaker to issue a direct apology for the three Internet ads that have generated a worldwide controversy and, according to various Ford insiders, caused significant damage to the maker’s global reputation.
Insisting he was “shocked” by the ads, which were “not authorized” by Ford, Farley issued the latest in a series of apologies, proclaiming that Ford is “very regretful,” and “taking the matter very seriously.”
That translates into the firing of several members of the advertising team at Ford’s global partner, WPP, with other dismissals highly likely, sources later told TheDetroitBureau.com.
“There were just a few people involved,” said Farley, insisting “They did this on their own” and adding that the automaker was not contacted. Nor did the controversial ads go through the normal review process that might have prevented them from being released.
One of the ads featured former Italian Prime Minister Sergio Berlusconi, who has been caught up in a series of sex-related scandals, sitting in the front of a Figo and giving a “peace” symbol while three scantily clad women lie bound and gagged in the cargo bay. A second spot has Paris Hilton sitting in the driver’s seat with her rivals for media attention, the three Kardashian sisters, also bound and gagged in the trunk.
A third spot, apparently produced as part of a contest on the Ads of the World website, has Formula One legend Michael Schumacher in the driver’s seat, this time with three of his F1 rivals bound-and-gagged.
Though not actually used as real advertisements for the Ford Figo – one of the maker’s most important products in the Indian market – the release has proved a global embarrassment, the timing of their release particularly unfortunate.
India has been in the spotlight in recent months due to a series of notorious rapes, the most recent involving a Swiss tourist. The country has taken heat for its seemingly indifferent attitude on violence against women – made worse by the fact that over 50 members of the Indian Parliament face outstanding charges related to sex crimes.
The Parliament last week passed a new measure designed to crack down on rape.
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