Wednesday, March 27, 2013

You can have any color as long as it's *****

Ford Sorry for Mocked-up Ads in India Showing Bound and Gagged Women

All this, over this:

Here's the much-maligned, three-time Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi flashing a sign of victory, with three under-dressed ladies tied up and placed in the boot. And the Ford Figo with a "Leave Your Worries Behind" (LYWB) sign-off. So, what is this - is Silvio happy with his catch? Or is he 'leaving his worries behind' by abducting three potential witnesses from his many court cases? The latter would make sense, given the tagline. But it seems to be the former that has garnered everyone's attention and (shudder) outrage. Given this confusion, I don't think the boffins at JWT were up to the mark with this particular piece of creative. 

The remainder of the campaign, however, actually comes closer to the LYWB promise. There's Michael Schumacher in his latest and lesser avatar as a Mercedes driver, with the top three Formula 1 drivers bound and gagged in the Figo's boot. Given his tepid performance after an Afridi-esque reneging of a retirement promise, leaving his worries, i.e. Messrs. Alonso, Hamilton, and Vettel tied up in the boot of a little Indian hatchback was probably the only way he could have won on track.

And there's Paris Hilton doing the LYWB with the Kardashians. This I shall not comment upon as I'm slightly disconnected from the celeb glitterati. But just going by my Twitter feed, it seems that the Kardashians are more discussed than Ms.Hilton and her pink Bentley. Or her Yellow Figo, as the creative suggests. So Paris gets back to the limelight by doing a Schumi and Silvio number on the family that stole her limelight. Fair enough. 

All in all, it's a so-so campaign that's mildly tasteless and tangentially funny. It's a note on three (in)famous individuals who have a lot of worries. It's a poke at Silvio, who is up to his slicked-back hair in criminal cases ranging from drug trafficking, to colluding with the Mafia. But does it merit the resignation of an advertising executive? The black-listing of a young and mildly talented creative team in what is essentially a small, tight-knit professional community? Or the panning of a brand of cars, and also the 'degenerates' who stoop to buy them? Someone actually tweeted "If this is what Ford stands for, I'll never sit in a Ford again, much less buy one."

I am aghast at the bad PR that Ford and JWT have earned because of a series of scam ads. Scam, as in "I never in my life hope to publish these, but I'd like to see what the creative community thinks of my creative prowess." Because that's what scam ads are. A series of creatives done with the express intent of posting them on an intra-community advertising website, such as adsoftheworld. And possibly getting an honorable mention for creative excellence at one of the countless advertising award functions. It's not a reflection of the brand, nor is it sponsored by the advertising agency (in most cases). 

Much of the ire was directed towards the Berlusconi ad in particular. Very few publications and bloggers bothered to find the other two in the series, which would of course have put things in perspective. What I'm reading and hearing is this : guy-captures-guys is ok. Girl-captures-girls is ok. But guy-captures-girls is a big no-no. And whoever mentions guy-captures-girls is a sexist, misogynist pig. Never mind that the ad is just caricaturing Berlusconi - a man who has been criminally charged with all sorts of sexual hanky-panky. 

Now, thanks to a social media universe that neither takes the time to make an informed opinion for itself, nor stays off any bandwagon that promises 15 minutes of fame and countless Likes and retweets, Ford finds itself besieged by world media. Ford couldn't have got more bad PR if Princess Diana had crashed in a Mondeo - and there's no such thing as bad PR. And of course, the guilty creative team from JWT may find themselves jobless; not for a lack of creativity and suaveness, but because their brand of funny was not really funny according to The World. And where's the fairness in that? I sometimes fear that the whole world has lost perception, and lies in wait for a new cause to be outraged about. Sleep well, friends.