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Powell: Advertisements by Ford India raise uncomfortable questions about attitudes toward women in India

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, arrives at

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, arrives at the AC Milan training grounds in Milanello. (Dec. 8, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

Marketing depends upon understanding cultural perspectives to engage consumers, so when advertisements created to sell cars in India depict women bound and gagged, it can only be assumed that the ads were designed with audience in mind.

This is what's most alarming about the proposed Ford Figo ads floating around on the Web.

One ad, which is a caricature of sorts, shows former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the steering wheel of the car and three women tied-up in the trunk. The tag-line for the ad would have been "Leave your worries behind with Figo's extra-large boot."


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The advertisements were created by JWT India which does work for Ford Figo, although they were never used commercially. The ads were however published last week on Ads of the World, a portfolio sharing site.

They've since been removed, and according to Business Insider, they were posted only to show the agency's "creative chops."

Both the Indian unit of Ford Motor Co. and JWT India's parent company, worldwide ad agency WPP, have released statements apologizing for the nature of the advertisements.

"These were never intended for paid publication and should never have been created, let alone uploaded to the internet," WPP PLC said in a statement. "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."

Again, though, the bigger cause for concern here is not that someone thought it would be funny to illustrate the size of a compact car by locking a bunch of women in it’s trunk.

It's what the advertisements say about attitudes towards women in India.

Last December, the case of a 23-year-old woman raped by a group of five men on a bus in New Delhi made international headlines. She later died from the injuries sustained in the brutal attack. Just last week, a Swiss tourist camping in Madhya Pradesh, India with her husband was gang-raped in front of him. The cases have sparked protests across the country and a call for better protection of women.

Women in India have been subjected to dowry, acid burning, trafficking and female infanticide.

India is an ally of the United States. At what point does the international community come forward to disapprove?

Let's start now.

Tags: Silvio Berlusconi , ford , india , bondage

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