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Hot-button Ford-Figo ads: When creatives took liberty

Ad industry sources say very often creative people are lured to put up their work as it happened in the Ford Figo case

BS Reporter  |  Mumbai 

Ford-Figo ads going viral has prompted some soul-searching in Ford India and ad agency JWT.

One ad shows former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi carrying three gagged and tied women in the trunk of a Figo. Another shows socialite Paris Hilton hauling the Kardashian sisters, who are reality TV stars in the US, also in the car, while the third ad shows former world champion and Formula One driver Michael Schumacher tugging rivals Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

According to sources, this is how it happened: A few creative people at ad agency JWT, which handles the advertising duties of Ford in India, thought some initial scribbles for the brand could be put up on the net for all to see.

While the senior management at JWT, as well as Ford India, has distanced themselves from the controversy, saying they did not authorise the release of this work, ad industry sources say with the explosion of social media today, it is easy for creative people to put up ads without approvals in their drive to be appreciated by one and all.

Colvyn Harris, CEO, JWT, South Asia, said the ads were created with inappropriate judgement and without proper authorisation. The ads have since been removed.

In a separate statement, JWT's parent WPP said: “We deeply regret the publishing of posters that were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within the WPP Group. These were never intended for paid publication and should never have been created, let alone uploaded on the Internet.”

The episode, however, is likely to lead to stricter procedures not only within JWT but also within other ad agencies to monitor what goes online especially before a campaign is released. Ford indicated as much when it said today it would review approval and oversight processes to ensure similar incidents don’t occur.

According to JWT sources, other advertisers, too, within the agency are likely to get tougher now to prevent creative work leaking out before a campaign sees the light of day.

JWT handles key accounts such as Pepsi in Delhi and Godrej in Mumbai.

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First Published: Tue, March 26 2013. 00:47 IST