The ads depict celebrities gagged and tied in the trunk of Ford's Figo sub-compact.Ford's Indian division has apologized for running a trio of billboard ads that put an emphasis on the Figo hatchback's large cargo capacity by depicting caricatures of celebrities gagged and tied in the trunk. The images are accompanied by a tagline that read "leave your worries behind."
Uploaded by website Ibelieveinadv.com, the first ad shows Paris Hilton at the wheel and the three Kardashian sisters behind the rear seats. The second ad depicts Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher kidnapping pilots Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. The third - and perhaps most daring - ad shows former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi behind the wheel of the Figo with three scantily clad women in the trunk.
The ads caused several protests in India, a country that has been marred by a series of rapes over the last couple of months, and Ford immediately took them down.
"We deeply regret this incident and agree with our agency partners that it should have never happened," said Ford in a statement. "The posters are contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within Ford and our agency partners."
JWT India, the agency responsible for the ads, explained that they were strictly intended to be used in-house and should have never been displayed on billboards or published online.
Most of the celebrities caricatured in the ads have not commented on the matter but the Kardashian sisters have indicated that they are considering filing a lawsuit against Ford.
"It is unacceptable that Ford would align itself with an ad agency that would so carelessly release these ads," said the anonymous attorney that represents the three socialites.
JWT India has published a press release saying that it has fired the designers responsible for the ads.
"These posters were created by individuals within the agency and did not go through the normal review and oversight process," said JWT in the statement. "After a thorough internal review, we have taken appropriate disciplinary action with those involved, which included the exit of employees at JWT."
The ads have earned Ford a healthy dose of criticism in the press and on social media sites. In an effort to help reestablish the automaker's reputation, JWT made it clear that the designs were by not commissioned by Ford.