Ford/JWT India could be in a soup of sorts for the latest Figo Ads that scream insensitivity towards women[Edit: Ford and JWT’s Response Inside]


Automakers in India seem to have a knack for getting into sexist controversies. Volkswagen India’s faux pas came last year prompting outrage across the interweb and social media circles. Volkswagen India’s sexist twitter comment even made it to business newspapers’ features explaining how not to handle a social media account. Barely six months from Volkswagen India’s mess up, it now seems to be Ford’s turn. Here’s a controversy in the making, a controversy that has the potential of making Ford India look very bad if this ad has indeed made the cut into production. JWT India, the Indian arm of New York headquartered global advertising giant JWT won the contract for producing creative material to promote the Ford Figo in 2009. Ever since, the agency has been churning out ads for the Figo. Notably, JWT India has been producing Ads for Ford even before the Figo campaigns.

Ford Figo Sexist Print Ad starring Silvio Berlusconi

Ford Figo Sexist Print Ad starring Silvio Berlusconi

Three print ads of JWTIndia have surfaced onto the interweb and these ads revolve around the ample boot space of the Ford Figo.  To showcase the Figo’s boot space, JWTIndia has used former Italian prime minister Mr Silvio Berlusconi as a prop in an ad that shows a beaming Mr Berlusconi with skimpily clad women bounded and bundled into the Figo’s boot. In another ad, American hotel heiress Paris Hilton is depicted in a similar situation with the women of the Kardashian family bundled into the Figo’s spacious boot.

Ford Figo Sexist Print Ad starring Paris Hilton

Ford Figo Sexist Print Ad starring Paris Hilton

The third ad though, shows Michael Schumacher in the driver’s seat with other F1 driver’s like Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton stuffed into the Figo’s boot. The ad campaign is titled “Leave your worries behind”.

Ford Figo Print Ad starring Michael Schumacher

Ford Figo Print Ad starring Michael Schumacher

While “bad taste” is a matter of personal and creative prerogative, two of the three Ads don’t seem very becoming of a socially responsible car maker like Ford. Days ago, the Indian parliament passed the Anti-Rape legislation, tightening laws to curb sexual violence in the country. This legislation followed the nationwide protest against the brutal gang rape of a para medical student in India’s capital city of New Delhi. At a sensitive time such as this, an Ad like this is deeply distressing. We’re not sure whether this Ad has begun appearing on print media outlets like newpapers and magazines. In light of that, we’ve sent Ford India and JWT India a link of this story asking them to respond to this ad. Needless to say, we’ll carry Ford and JWT India’s clarification in this very space if they choose to reply to us.

Ford India responds to Team ICB’s story with the following statement,

Statement from Ford India

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.

Here’s JWT India’s response to the above story,

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.

Images courtesy AdsOfTheWorld

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  1. venkat

    March 22, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Very good work from ICB.

  2. James

    March 24, 2013 at 4:56 am

    Nice caricatures. I wish more ads would be that funny but someone always feels insulted or at least pretends to…

  3. Bharath

    March 25, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Great job ICB. Applause..

  4. Aimee

    March 25, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    This isn’t about people being insulted or overly sensitive. This is about ads that are not only inaporpriate and insensitive in light of the issues of violence against women Idia has been facing, but also sexualizes and promotes fantasies about women being tied up and kidnapped. The photos are about force and dominance. There’s obviously not consent going on in these pictures. One of the women is crying for goodness sake. This is yet another example of our rape culture.

    The only one that I can understand as funny is the 3rd one. And no, it’s not because it’s men rather than women. It’s because it’s not sexualized and it’s not about power and control. It’s a joke about sports rivalries. I mean, I don’t personally find it exceptionally funny or clever, but it’s certainly better than the other two.

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