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.

Our Favourite PR Turnarounds of 2012

This year saw some celebrities, companies and even countries turn their own PR corner and we had a hard time choosing our favourite three for 2012. While they haven’t consistently made the headlines, each pick proves that image rehabilitation is always possible.

2013parishilton 150x150 Our Favourite PR Turnarounds of 2012Paris Hilton is ending the year visiting orphans in India and sick children in Los Angeles, routine trips for the 31-year-old celebutante these days. With her name once synonymous with “bad girl”, Ms. Hilton seems to have left the days of sex tapes and cocaine possession behind. She’s revamped her image by staying out of the limelight while showcasing her business acumen, building an eponymous global chain of retail stores and a fragrance line estimated to top $1 billion in sales. Her news clippings, about new shop openings and charitable acts, reflect the reinvention: privileged brat no more. Lindsey, take notice.

 

2013myanmar 150x150 Our Favourite PR Turnarounds of 2012Myanmar, long known for its oppressive regimes, overhauled its image on the world stage with its transition to democracy. 2012 saw ex-political prisoner and Nobel Prize winner Aung Sun Suu Kyi and her party elected to parliament, the lifting of censorship laws to create a nascent free press, and the central bank floating the kyat to allow for normalized investment. President Thein Sein’s reforms have resulted in relaxed U.S. trade sanctions and even prompted a visit from Barack Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in the former Burma. All this sends a great message to the world: democracy rules!

 

2013AIG 150x150 Our Favourite PR Turnarounds of 2012The U.S. government last week sold off its remaining stake in AIG, the insurer deemed “too big to fail” and the largest recipient of a much-maligned government bailout four years ago. The sale marks one of the most impressive turnarounds in U.S. business history and the resurrection of the AIG name. CEO Robert Benmosche was eloquent in his statement, thanking the country “for giving us the opportunity to keep our promise to make America whole on its investment … Thank you America. Let’s bring on tomorrow.” AIG’s name, like its stock, appears to be on the up and up.