Ford India’s Faux Ad Scandal

paris hilton kardashians ford ad 150x150 Ford Indias Faux Ad Scandal

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for WPP Group.

In the normal course of events, ad agencies come in to help clients clean up a mess – they don’t create it in the first place. That, however, was the case this week at WPP Group and its JWT subsidiary in India. The British imagemaker and world’s largest ad agency was in the unenviable position of having to apologize for salacious and, to many, highly offensive advertisements JWT employees created for Ford India.

The faux ad campaign depicts a famous person in the front seat of the Ford Figo with his or her perceived rivals bound and gagged in the roomy trunk. In one, Paris Hilton winks saucily as three Kardashian sisters squirm in the boot. In another, someone resembling Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi flashes a “peace” sign above three tied-up young ladies sporting spiked heels, leather, and ball gags. The campaign’s tagline? “Leave Your Worries Behind.”

Unfortunately for the JWT employees who created the joke ads and posted them on a website for creative advertising, women appearing to be kidnapped and tortured is rather a sensitive topic in India these days. In recent months, the highly publicized gang rapes of an Indian student and a Swiss tourist have shone an unflattering light on India’s treatment of women. Ironically, the ads appeared just days after the Indian Parliament passed sweeping anti-rape legislation designed to better protect women and punish those who would assault them.

THE PR VERDICT:  “C” (Distinctly OK) for WPP, which swiftly fired the offenders and appears to have used its massive clout to make clear that Ford did not see or approve the ads.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Guard the brand fiercely. This isn’t the first time a fake ad or news story has been created in jest, and it won’t be the last; indeed, such antics are an age-old tradition at some agencies. As Ford India CEO Alan Mulally noted with chagrin, steps will be taken to ensure that “no independent person [can do] something like this with the Ford brand and logo” in future. Make sure those who have access to your brand understand the dire consequences of not treating it with respect.

Lights, Camera, Lawsuit: The Real Drama Behind Documentaries

2012 queen of versailles 001 300x200 Lights, Camera, Lawsuit: The Real Drama Behind Documentaries

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for David and Jackie Siegel.

Why does anyone agree to take part in reality TV-style documentaries? Invariably they end in tears and lawsuits. The forthcoming documentary The Queen of Versailles, about a thrillingly tacky billionaire couple that embarks on a quest to create America’s largest home, proves the point. Well before the film’s release date on July 20, lawsuits began flying.

Meet David and Jackie Siegel, the couple with royal pretensions. David is the billionaire founder of Westgate Resorts. At 77 years of age, he says with pride that Westgate is the largest privately owned time-share company in the world. His wife, 31 years his junior, marvels in the film at her crocodile boots by Gucci ($17,000), her ten kitchens, spa, and bowling alley–requisites, obviously, of any comfortable home. The dream? To create a palace to rival Versailles, in the principality of Orlando, Florida.

The dream turned nightmarish when the film’s final edits came through. Westgate, like many other business, hit the headlines for running into problems with the collapse of the property boom. The film suggests that David Siegal was in financial trouble and juxtaposes images of ongoing and then ceased construction.  Wasn’t this meant to be about business success and not business failure? We’ve been stung–call the lawyers!

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Siegels and their delusional expectation that this documentary would be anything but problematic.

PR Takeaway: It’s all in the final cut. The longer the filming, the bigger the edits.  If Siegel wanted a documentary about his business success, he should have paid to have a promo film made about him and his firm. As the film crew followed the construction of the 90,000 square foot house, requiring months of filming, any control of the final outcome was relinquished. Not even a generous banquet with the producers in the Siegel’s Hall of Mirrors would shift the story line on this one. Their best hope is to take a leaf out of the Kardashian book and see how they can milk their new notoriety.

To read more, click here.

Should the Spiegels have expected anything other than drama, or are they getting a room with a view to reality? Give us your PR Verdict, below.