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.

When Plastic Politicians Face the Nation

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As the US elections edge closer, what is the PR obligation for a candidate to look his best? What price beauty? And who on the world’s stage might have already succumbed to the vanities of the knife?

Vanity Fair  thinks this an issue worth discussing. An article on the magazine’s website identifies who of the world’s leaders are most likely to have had “work done,” with a top Manhattan surgeon on hand to give his view. The undisputed winner, hands down, is former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, while Cristina Kirchner of  Argentina, with her signature bee-stung lips, seems an almost certain runner-up. The jury is out on Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who just seems to take a good photo–or do Botox injections give him that rested appearance? Kim Jong Un of North Korea seems the biggest puzzle. If he has had plastic surgery . . . It really doesn’t seem to have helped. Money back for Lil’ Kim?

And what should a politician’s PR minder say when word of facial work on a head of state leaks out? What is the right PR way to handle a candidate’s cosmetic improvement?

“Medical reasons” seems the most convincing explanation, which Berlusconi initially used. He had ample air cover: Italian officials said he underwent procedures to repair damage sustained in 2009 when he was hit in the face by a protestor. But then, Berlusconi gave his own game away when he said, “Improvements are a way of showing respect to those who share your life, your family.” So the hair transplant wasn’t a result of the protester’s attack after all? He gets high marks for being forthright about going under the knife.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Silvio Berlusconi and his ongoing cosmetic makeover. His work is never done, but at least he gave himself ample PR cover to go back for more.

The PR Takeaway: Honesty is not always the best policy. For the Kremlin’s strongman or Libya’s former dictator, collagen puffed bee-stung lips might provoke the hardest ridicule to suppress. Electorates are inherently suspicious of peacocks, and whether for a democratic candidate or a dictator, admitting to plastic surgery seems an unlikely electoral winner. From a PR point of view, this is one case where the “Never apologize, never explain” rule might be the way to go.

To see who else might have gone under the knife, check out Vanity Fair’s gallery here.

Should politicians admit to having plastic surgery? Should they even get it, since the results are usually obvious? Give us your PR Verdict!


What Will We Remember Silvio Berlusconi For?

Berlusconi2 What Will We Remember Silvio Berlusconi For?

The PR Verdict: “F” for Berlusconi and his hope of imparting a political legacy.

Been to any good parties lately? Is anyone feeling more than a hint of envy and disappointment at not having been invited to Silvio Berlusconi’s rather extravagant soirees, currently being described in excruciating detail in an Italian court.

The former Premier of Italy is on trial for allegedly paying a 17-year-old Moroccan girl for sex (left), then using his influence in 2010 to cover it up.  He has denied the charges but details emerge daily about the parties he was either hosting or attending.  The key finding?  His entertaining style was more Girls Gone Wild than formal state dinners.

Yesterday’s revelation that the fetes involved female guests allegedly dressing as nuns and stripping for titillated guests will ensure this is what Berlusconi is remembered for.  His political legacy has now become permanently entwined with jokes about bunga-bunga, strippers nuns and Sister Act.

The PR Verdict: “F” for Berlusconi and his hope of imparting a political legacy.  These headlines will define his premiership.

PR Takeaway: Anecdotes kill reputations faster than any long-winded critical evaluation.  To permanently damage a person’s reputation all that is needed is a simple incident that can be forever used by detractors as shorthand for a wider moral failing.   Clinton had it with cigars, John Edwards had it with $500 haircuts, while corporate tycoons had it with ice sculptures looking like centurions and $6000 dollar shower curtains.  The anecdote is usually the opening paragraph to any story.  It’s an uphill and often unsuccessful battle to change the perception from then on.

To read more click here and here.

What’s your PR Verdict?

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