Ford Figo’s ‘unapproved’ JWT ads, Where is advertising ethics heading

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One of the most controversial ads going around the social media nowadays is the new print ad of Ford Figo which was created by JWT. These ads have drawn some sharp criticisms from people around the world and now a host of apologies are being sent out by the ad agency JWT. People have severely criticised the ads which show a caricature of three famous personalities Celebrity Paris Hilton, Formula 1 racing driver Michael Schumacher and above all former Italian Prime Minister Berlsconi riding around in Ford Figo with gagged hostages in the storage area of the car.

The people who have seen the ads have termed it as rather insensitive on the part of JWT for coming out with such a creative and also accused them of endorsing rape culture and promoting corrupt lifestyle. The worst part of this print ad is that the hostages who are being driven around in the car in the ‘extra large boot’ of Ford Figo are scantily clad women and these posters are accompanied by the line ‘leave your worries behind with Figo’s extra large boot’.

After the release of the posters with these caricatures, JWT and the holding company WPP has gone on the overdrive in issuing official apologies and JWT South Asia CEO, Colvyn Harris while talking to Economic Times has clarified that these posters did not have official endorsement from Ford and they were never actually released or published. These ads have said to be uploaded by team members from Blue Hive which is an exclusive division created by to serve the requirements of Ford. These team members are said to have uploaded these unapproved advertisements independently to a popular advertising website adsoftheworld.com. Ford Italy has totally disassociated with this ad as it shows the ex Prime Minister of Italy in a very bad light.

This development shows the loopholes in the Indian advertising scenario wherein in this technologically advanced age works which are created for clients without their sanction are put on sites like adsoftheworld.com so that it can be critiqued by peers from across the world. What they forget about is the extent of damage these types of insensitive ads can do to the clients. In this case, the image of Ford and JWT has got tarnished because of the ads which are really demeaning in all the sense and it has become particularly damaging since it was seen that a very senior member of the creative team on Ford was seen defending this ad on social networking platforms before the whole controversy erupted.

This is not the first time JWT and Ford have been involved in a controversy. Last time they entered into a controversy was in 2007, when a young team of WT created a series of films about petrol mafia for Ford Endeavour. These videos were posted in Youtube but this was quickly taken off on Ford’s behest but it generated a huge hue and cry and damaged the reputation of the client and agency to an extent.

In the future, let advertisers take a cue from this episode and reinforce that it would require immense responsibility on the part of the agency to come out with real creative work for clients by not really damaging the sensibilities of the people and the brand.

 

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