In horrible advertising ideas, and just when you thought issues between Italy and India were dying down, Ford India plugs the cavernous trunk space of its Figo hatchback by depicting captive women stuffed inside. That’s Silvio Berlusconi in the first image, leering at a troika of half-dressed model types. In the second ad, Paris Hilton seems to have kidnapped the Kardashians, one of whom is inexplicably wearing a bikini and high heels.
As Autoblog points out, the campaign—which also features racecar driver Michael Schumacher with bound-and-gagged competitors—is being unveiled just a few days after the Indian parliament passed a major anti-rape law. Nice one, guys. And not jus that.
Produced by advertising agency JWT India, one of the ads for the subcompact car shows a cartoon of three scantily clad women gagged and crammed in the trunk of the Figo while Mr. Berlusconi looks back from the driver’s seat, flashing a peace sign. The tagline at the bottom reads “Leave Your Worries Behind with the Figo’s extra-large boot,” referring to the former Prime Minister’s many affairs and bunga bunga parties.
The JWT India team, which created the ad, posted it online to the website, Ads of the World, without official approval. It has since been removed and was never formally aired.
The leaked spot ironically comes less than two days after months of public outcry about the need to protect women from sexual violence led to the passage of a new anti-rape law by Parliament.
“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,” Ford India said in a statement to The Hindu.
Another advertisement, with the same tagline, shows a caricature of Paris Hilton smiling, while TV reality stars the Kardashians are gagged and bound in the back of the Figo.
Both spots have sparked controversy in Italy, with Ford Italy ‘disassociating itself from the company’s Indian operations’, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica. The draft advertisement was presumably outsourced to JWT India, and meant for the Italian and American markets.
The WPP Group, of which JWT India is a subsidiary, has said the posters were never intended for paid publication and should have not been uploaded to the Internet.
“We deeply regret the publishing of posters that were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within WPP Group. This was the result of individuals acting without proper oversight and appropriate actions have been taken within the agency,” the Group said in a statement.
The image appeared over the weekend on a website showcasing creative ads. Featuring Ford’s logo, it showed three women bound and gagged in the trunk of a Ford Figo with Berlusconi smiling from the driver’s seat alongside the slogan “Leave your worries behind.”
Never used commercially, the ad was reportedly posted online by its creators at an ad agency hired by Ford.
The company said Monday that it regrets the incident, calling the images “contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within Ford.”
A spokesperson said the company is investigating whether anyone at Ford ever saw the ad.