It was presumably supposed to be a joke.
Never mind that they were never supposed to see the light of day, Ford is quickly backing away from and apologizing for a pair of less-than-tasteful ads featuring bound and gagged women in the trunk of its Ford Figo.
With a tagline reads, “Leave Your Worries Behind.” one version features a peace-sign throwing Silvio Berlusconi holding hostage three buxom and barely clad women, all wearing ball gags with hands and feet bound. Charming.
The ads come soon after Berlusconi was found guilty of breach of confidentiality in a wiretap case and as he awaits trial in a sex-for-hire case.
Another version shows Paris Hilton similarly kidnapping a trio of Kardashians, while a third (tame in terms of the clothing at least), has Michael Schumacher toting Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, and Lewis Hamilton.
It turns out a young creative team at JWT India, Ford Figo’s agency of record, made the spot and posted it to website Ads of the World without approval.
But the cartoonish images backfired and caused outrage after they appeared on the Ads of the World website.
Clearly in bad taste, at least, the Indian source also questions the timing of these risquĂ© Ford ads, as the follow by days new anti-rape legislation passed by the Indian Parliament, says Auto Blog.
The ads caused an uproar online and came just after India passed a new law on violence against women following a fatal gang rape of a student on a bus that prompted mass protests and spotlighted the status of women in India.
Ford has responded in a statement, that it and its advertising partner (JWT India) “deeply regret” the ads, and claim that they “never should have happened.”
WPP Group, which holds JWT, told Business Insider:
“We deeply regret the publishing of posters that were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within WPP Group.
â€śThese were never intended for paid publication and should never have been created, let alone uploaded to the internet.
“This was the result of individuals acting without proper oversight and appropriate actions have been taken within the agency where they work to deal with the situation.â€ť
A Ford India spokeswoman said Monday that the company is investigating whether anyone at the automaker ever saw the print ads, which were never used commercially but appeared over the weekend on a website showcasing creative advertising.
Ford issued an apology for the ad as well, emailing BI, â€śWe 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.â€ť
It’s unclear how much damage, if any, the leaked ads will cost Ford in India. The company has been posting healthy sales gains in India, thanks in large part to the Figo.
The Figo launched in 2010 and has a base price of about $7,159.00.