Ford Apologizes Over Sexist Ads Using Cartoons of Bound-and-Gagged Women

One of the offending images, starring Berlusconi. Image for Ford by JWT.Mock-up Ford ads using cartoon images of the Kardashian sisters and other women bound and gagged in trunks are causing a public-relations disaster for the auto giant.

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The three unapproved rogue ads for the compact Ford Figo, made in India by young creatives at ad agency JWT, were posted on the portfolio-sharing site Ads of the World last week and spotted by a Business Insider reporter, who called them “disturbing.”
One depicted Paris Hilton at the wheel, winking, with the three Kardashian sisters tied up in the car’s trunk. Another featured three bound and gagged women in the trunk and former Italian prime minister and infamous “Bunga Bunga” partier Silvio Berlusconi at the wheel, flashing a peace sign, and the following tagline: “Leave Your Worries Behind with the Figo’s extra-large boot.” The third put Formula One driving champ Michael Schumacher at the wheel with a trunk full of his longtime male rivals. They have since been taken down from the site.

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The ads were not approved by higher-ups and were not used commercially, according to JWT (part of worldwide ad agency giant WPP), which released the following statement:

Another one of the ads, with Paris Hilton and the Kardashians. Image: Ford by JWT.“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.”

Ford added in its own statement: “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.”

A Ford spokesperson added, in an email to Yahoo! Shine, "These were posters that were concepts to be entered in a creative ad competition in India.  They were never intended as any sort of campaign or paid use…as such, they did not go through the normal approvals and process before being uploaded to a website."

According to Business Insider, “India is known for its politically incorrect advertising—Hitler shows up in ads there on a regular basis.” The reporter suggested that, while it’s possible JWT India was trying to make a joke about Western culture rather than the role of women in society, “either way it's tasteless. (If you click to expand the image, it’s evident that the woman in the sexy schoolgirl outfit is crying.)”

Others also weighed in on the controversy and its implications. “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 News. “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.”

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