No one’s napping and no one’s too meek to meow. One cannot afford to ignore the wild fire created by JWT for Ford showing the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi flashing a peace sign with scantily clad women in the Ford Figo’s boot. The tagline that reads, ‘Leave your worries behind with Figo’s extra-large boot’, and the caricature has once again sparked the already cooling debate on the Italian marine row. The creatives played on Berlusconi’s history of sex scandals and semi-nude women in his popular ‘bunga bunga’ parties. The controversy is supported with another ad showing Paris Hilton driving a Ford Figo with the Kardashians tied up in the boot and the third one had the Formula One driver Michael Schumacher kidnapping his male racing rivals namely Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.
The posters, which were not approved by JWT and Ford India’s officials, were posted on the website Adsoftheworld.com but all three have since been removed. Official apologies have been issued by Ford and JWT’s holding company WPP.
The official statement from WPP said, “We deeply regret the publishing of posters that were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within WPP Group. These 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.”
But is this a deliberate attempt to catch the attention of the masses or is this a notorious concept of a run-away creative mind? Experts believe that with the rising power of social media, it has become extremely easy for young talent to showcase their work without approvals, to be appreciated or criticised by industry peers. exchange4media spoke to industry veterans on measures to curb this kind of activity in future.
KV Sridhar (aka Pops), Chief Creative Officer India Subcontinent at Leo Burnett said, “Earlier, it was not easy for a work to be published but in today’s world any work can be published on social networking sites from anywhere creating a viral loop. Stringent monitoring system needs to be put up to control these incidents. An idea or a work should be legally and morally ethical to be uploaded. It’s a very serious issue bothering all companies and not just advertising agencies.”
He added, “The extensive use of digital is useful and the same time disastrous because one wrong statement on the social network can backfire. Lots of companies have included the social media clauses in the employment agreement to be make people responsible.”
According to him, however, the situation is alarming at creative agencies because the future lies in the hands of the young talent that is shifting jobs every third month and it’s difficult to monitor content shared and uploaded by them.
Abhijit Avasthi, National Creative Director, Ogilvy India said, “I think it’s unfortunate that something like this happened, which was obviously not intended. I think the only way out for all of us is to educate our colleagues and juniors to be extremely careful of doing things like this. It’s best to share the proactive idea with the client and then go ahead with it. As long as the client doesn’t approve an ad, it’s just an idea on a piece of paper.”
He added, “We keep talking to our juniors and colleagues to create awareness among them for these sensitive times.”
Rohit Ohri, Executive Chairman, Dentsu India Group said, “Creating awareness among the younger sets of creative people will solve the problem.” He feels that the junior level creative people need to be imparted with education on these issues. “We have a Creative Council of seven members who meet every quarter to discuss work to be done for awards and different initiatives to be sold to a brand, etc. Every piece of work is presented to the Council for approval before getting released.”
Arun Iyer, National Creative Director, Lowe Lintas said, “It’s unfortunate but nobody has done it to create troubles for the agency and the brand. It’s the nature of this whole scam ad business. Brands always try and take topics that are edgy and globally relevant but one has to draw the line. I feel that scam ads shouldn’t be done. If it has to be done, then people need to be more careful and sensitive to topics.”
Josy Paul, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, BBDO India said, “I cannot comment about the Ford ads as I have no background. All I can say is that we need to shine the torch on the alternative. The joy of seeing real work affects a larger audience, a greater India. To witness the truth about advertising and its power to change things and create a new reality that gives people hope, joy and useful entertainment.”
Automobile ads should move away from highlighting masculinity and showing thinly clad women jumping on a macho man for the car. The ads have to be made responsibly and carefully without hurting the sentiments of the society, agency, brand or gender.