Just when you thought issues between Italy and India are dying down, a leaked Ford Figo advertisement depicting former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and a car trunk full of gagged and handcuffed women has sparked yet another controversy.
Produced by advertising agency JWT India, one of the ads for the subcompact car shows a cartoon of three scantily clad women gagged and crammed in the trunk of the Figo while Mr. Berlusconi looks back from the driver’s seat, flashing a peace sign. The tagline at the bottom reads “Leave Your Worries Behind with the Figo’s extra-large boot,” referring to the former Prime Minister’s many affairs and bunga bunga parties.
The JWT India team, which created the ad, posted it online to the website, Ads of the World, without official approval. It has since been removed and was never formally aired.
The leaked spot ironically comes less than two days after months of public outcry about the need to protect women from sexual violence led to the passage of a new anti-rape law by Parliament.
“We deeply regret this incident and agree with our agency partners that it should have never happened. 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,” Ford India said in a statement to The Hindu.
Another advertisement, with the same tagline, shows a caricature of Paris Hilton smiling, while TV reality stars the Kardashians are gagged and bound in the back of the Figo.
Both spots have sparked controversy in Italy, with Ford Italy ‘disassociating itself from the company’s Indian operations’, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica. The draft advertisement was presumably outsourced to JWT India, and meant for the Italian and American markets.
The WPP Group, of which JWT India is a subsidiary, has said the posters were never intended for paid publication and should have not been uploaded to the Internet.
“We deeply regret the publishing of posters that were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within WPP Group. This was the result of individuals acting without proper oversight and appropriate actions have been taken within the agency,” the Group said in a statement.