"Shameful" sexist Ford car ads spark outrage in India

MUMBAI Tue Mar 26, 2013 1:24pm EDT

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MUMBAI (Reuters) - A series of car ads, including one showing women bound and gagged in the trunk of a Ford driven by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, has prompted Internet outrage in India and prompted an apology from Ford India.

The ads came just days after India approved a tougher new law to punish sex crimes, following the fatal gang rape of a student in December. That attack sparked unprecedented protests over the treatment of women in the country.

The ads, uploaded on an industry website, were created by individuals within JWT India, a unit of the world's biggest advertising group WPP. They did not go through the normal review and oversight process, Ford India said.

"We deeply regret this incident and agree with our agency partners that it should have never happened," the company said in a statement.

"These posters are against the standards of professionalism and decency within Ford and our agency partners, and weren't part of any projects that Ford and WPP are working on, or for any commissioned commercial use."

Ford India did not comment on whether it was taking any action against the agency.

One of the ads shows Berlusconi, charged in Italy with paying for sex with a minor, sitting in the front seat of a Ford Figo hatchback flashing a victory sign, with a trio of half-dressed women tied up in the trunk.

Another ad in the same series featured a caricature of celebrity Paris Hilton in the driver's seat, and three women resembling the Kardashian sisters bound in the trunk with the tagline "Leave your worries behind with Figo's extra large boot".

"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," WPP said.

Comments on Twitter and Facebook dismissed the ads as "shameful" and "disgusting".

"If this is what Ford represents, I will never buy Ford again, and try my best not to sit in one," a Facebook user said.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Elaine Lies and Nick Macfie)

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Comments (2)
ZdenekJ wrote:
That advertising was surely an error on the management’s part, but only if viewed within the current skewed status quo. Men are actually being portrayed as being much worse in general and they have no heard advocacy. In fact, even this ad implies that men did it, so I can’t see why women are complaining. I should be complaining that I was just being stereotyped as a member of a rapist band. But do I refuse to drive a Ford? No, because I’m also a member of a group who is responsible for running this world and as such, I can’t afford being half-witted.

Mar 26, 2013 12:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Eideard wrote:
Inadequate article. The adverts had no oversight because they were produced by a few employees of the ad agency to enter in a contest. Publication was never the goal.

The leaders of this rogue band are now unemployed.

Mar 27, 2013 1:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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