Lighten Up! Ford, Others Are Overreacting to Figo Fiasco

Scam Ads Serve a Creative Purpose; Firing People May Turn Others Away From Industry

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Reading about the Ford Figo fiasco and the rolling of creative heads at JWT India creative heads, my only reaction was HOLI COW. You see, this week India is celebrating its festival of colors called Holi, but you can bet there are no celebrations in many agencies in this country right now.

I spoke with many of my industry peers in India to get their take on the debacle. Many slammed the credibility of those ads, saying that scam work is not respectable and shouldn't be going on at all. Others didn't think it was all that big a deal and believe the agency's reputation and that of the creatives who were dismissed will not be dinged for the long haul. As the old saying goes, some believe all PR is good PR, and we have seen evidence in both Bollywood and Hollywood that scandals can actually help to elevate personal brands to celebrity status.

But what struck me the most was the mass sentiment of shock and horror over the firings. In the creative community in India, most people view this as an overreaction and believe that those creatives did not deserve to lose their jobs.

Some of it may boil down to cultural differences.

You see, Indians don't think much of their politicians. Hell, we think all the politicians in this world are blood-thirsty villains with mansions in tax havens. So when we see those ads, we see the funny side of it. I understand that because the ads featured gagged, tied-up women in the trunk, it was viewed as tasteless and hit a nerve.

Overreactions from a typically conservative Indian brand may have been expected, but coming from an American brand like Ford? The reaction to us has seemed oddly uptight for a brand headquartered in the land of free speech.

Yes, the agency and its people messed up. But why couldn't the client show some faith and character? Yes, the agency was trying to win awards out of scam ads. But the ad industry thrives on stretching boundaries. This definitely isn't the first time and won't be the last time that adventurous and ambitious folks have done things true to their nature

Such radical, public action may lead to creative people being hesitant about joining the agency world or working on the Ford Figo brand.

People love to hate on scam ads, but why single out only the advertising industry? How about the automobile industry putting an end to making concept cars? That is to an engineer what a scam ad is to a copywriter.

No one really blamed Ford for this mess, and no one ever will. We all talk about brands having a "human side" and how consumers appreciate it, but when the time came to depict exactly that, the easy way out was taken.

Editor's note: The views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect those of Ad Age or any other company.

Vishal Mehra is a digital strategist at Bite's New Delhi office. You can find him on Twitter at @vishal1mehra.

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