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Ford Sorry For Mocked-up Ads In India Showing Bound And Gagged Women

Illustrations produced by an Indian ad agency showing scantily clad cartoon women bound, gagged and stuffed into the hatch of a Ford Figo have led both the car company and the ad agency's parent to issue apologies.

The images, according to FirstPost.Business, were "scam ads — ads that are created not to sell products and services, but to win awards at awards shows such as the Abby or at Cannes."

The agency, JWT India, does do work for Ford in that country. But Business Insider says that "Ford did not approve the ads; the agency was just publishing some speculative renderings to show off its creative chops."

Still, as The Wall Street Journal reports, Ford released a statement saying, "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."

The illustrations reportedly appeared briefly on the website Ads of the World, but have since disappeared.

JTW India's parent, WPP PLC, has also apologized, according to Bloomberg News.

In one of the illustrations, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (in caricature) looks back from the front seat and flashes a peace sign as three bound and gagged women look on from the hatch. The tag line for the would-be ad: "Leave your worries behind with Figo's extra-large boot." As Business Insider says, the image is a clear reference to "Berlusconi's many affairs and bunga bunga parties."

In another illustration, celebrity Paris Hilton is in the driver's seat and three of her TV reality rivals — the Kardashians — are in the hatch.

A third version has race car driver Michael Schumacher in front and three of his (male) rivals in the back. They're tied and have tape over their mouths.

We don't have the rights to any of the images at this time, but you can see them by following the links to the various other reports.

Ford is hearing about the ads on its Facebook page. "Your Ford India ad is disgusting," says one comment posted there. "You are promoting the Rape culture that exists in India."

Violence against women in India has been dominating the news there since the rape of a young woman by a group of men on a bus last December. She later died from her injuries. The crime sparked protests across the country. It has been followed by other such attacks, however, including the rape of a Swiss tourist earlier this month.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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