The mess began several days ago when a series of sexually
offensive ads created by JWT India showing women bound and
gagged in the trunk of Ford Figo hatchback
were uploaded to the website Ads of the World.
The ads were not approved by Ford but rather created by staffers
at JWT India, which handles advertising for Ford in the country.
Such ads, created without client approval, are often called "fake
ads" or "scam ads" and are made by creatives seeking attention and
looking for ways to bolster their portfolios. But the practice can
spell bad news for both clients and agencies and the timing
couldn't be worse for these ads to emerge out of the Indian
The controversial posters were uploaded for public view at a
time when India is in crisis over sexual assaults on women. The
brutal gang rape of a 23-year old student in New Delhi in December
drew worldwide attention. The woman died from her injuries several
weeks later. India recently approved a more stringent law to punish
One of the ads depicted reality TV star Paris Hilton with what
appears to be Kim Kardashian and her two sisters tied up in the
trunk of her car. The tagline: "Leave your worries behind with
Figo's extra large boot."
Another showed Silvio Berlusconi, former Prime Minister of
Italy, who was embroiled in a sex scandal of his own. In it, he's
flashing a victory sign while three half-dressed women struggle
against their bonds.
The swift dismissal of the JWT India employees responsible for
the ads is a sign that the agency is trying to make good on the
When we asked if Ford will yank the business from JWT or parent
company WPP or put its India ad account into review, Mr. Preuss
said "no such action" has been contemplated.
He continued: "There's a deep partnership between WPP and Ford.
Obviously, the issue was located in one place. It obviously
happened with individuals who were acting outside of any normal
oversight we have. This is a very, very serious matter and it's
being handled as such. Right now, the actions are being dealt with
at our local agency. Again, everybody is extremely unhappy and
regretting this has happened."
For years, WPP has maintained an exclusive global partnership
with Ford. In the U.S. Ford has its own agency under WPP to serve
its needs, Team Detroit.
JWT said the "distasteful" posters "were never intended for paid
publication and should never have been created, let alone uploaded
to the internet." The disciplinary action, including dismissal of
employees, were "necessary steps owing to the direct accountability
of the concerned individuals as we work to ensure that both the
right oversight and processes are strictly enforced so that this
never happens again."