Ford Motors India has apologised for a series of advertisements their popular Ford Figo model.
One features a caricature of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the driver's seat while three scantily clad women sit gagged and bound in the trunk. A second features a Paris Hilton caricature winking from the driver's seat, while Kim Kardashian and two others are gagged in the boot; the third has a caricatured Michael Schumacher with Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso lookalikes gagged in the back.
The ads all have the same headline: “Leave your worries behind”.
In a statement, Ford Motors India said, “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."
How did this happen?
Well, ads such as these are popularly called ‘scam’ ads – ads that are created not to sell products and services, but to win awards at awards shows such as the Abby or at Cannes.
Normally, clients are aware of the release of such ads, and it’s a nod and a wink, with all the participants aware that these have been created only to win awards. To be eligible at most awards, they are required to have a legal approval and order to release from the client, and must be published in at least one publication/TV channel/website/outdoor location/radio station. At the time of writing this, it is still unclear whether these ads, created by some creatives at JWT India, were released with authorisation.
In India, it is common for ‘scam’ print ads to be released in inexpensive publications such as Free Press Journal and The Sentinel, so that the ads become ‘legal’ award material.
The timing of this story is interesting, as the Indian advertising industry gears up for the Abbys, an awards show where print ads, especially, are dominated by scam ads.