Henry Ford’s endorsement of the Nazi Empire in the 20th century created a condition that endures among the Jewish community when it comes to purchasing Ford vehicles. Most Jews will not own a Ford.
Now emerging from the exceptionally tough economic downturn in 2009, Ford is inadvertently at the center of a new reason for a large community to feel alienated, aghast, and amazed at the level of grand-scale insensitivity displayed by JWT Delhi, the ad agency retained by Ford.
Forget that Ford has steadily rebuilt its business since the tough downturn of 2009 that saw other US car manufacturers file for bankruptcy (and Ford receive $5.9 billion in low-cost government loans to overhaul its factories and bring out more fuel-efficient technology.) And that shortly thereafter Ford advertisements went on the offensive against fellow US car manufacturers that did go bankrupt (with no mention of the US tax payer funded loans to Ford.)
Recently a series of ads focusing on women in bondage in Ford vehicle trunk space including the Kardashian sisters and a winking Paris Hilton or Silvio Berlusconi in the driver seat (a third featured Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher apparently kidnapping other drivers) are at the center of a global controversy with presumably millions of people asking “What was Ford thinking?”
Apparently, Ford did not in anyway approve the ads or their release. It is reported that creatives at JWT Delhi took it upon themselves to create the ads and upload them to a website. JWT India, the ad agency, said the ads were ‘never paid for and were not expected to be released.’ They ended up on an online advertising website last Friday.
The result, of course, is viral.
The fact that someone at JWT Delhi released these ads is deplorable in light of the recent well publicized gang-rapes and India’s parliament passing the India Rape Law last week, for the first time providing strict legislation against sexual violence.
It boggles the mind that anyone at JWT thought this was a good idea. Of course, Ford has quickly apologized even though they really had nothing to do with the offending material.
Presumably, some heads will roll, but how much damage has been done to Ford’s image and how much long term impact to the brand?
Regardless of culpability, will Ford experience a serious backlash and will there be a new, hard to remove, blight on the brand?
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