Ford - Berlusconi /Hilton & Schumacher with bound & gagged women in their trunk - scam ad, India

silvio berlusconi
Paris Hilton

If anyone here can help me decipher how on earth anyone might think this was a good idea, feel free. The first ad has Silvio Berlusconi and his personal collection of bound and gagged barely clad women in his trunk, which sort of makes sense as I assume that's how he lets his girlfriends travel with him (zing!). Next there's Paris Hilton ­with a trio of Kardashians in her trunk, and the third ad puts some gender equality in it as Michael Schumacher stows away Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, and Lewis Hamilton in his trunk. Everyone has junk in their trunk! Wait, what?

Ford has apologized for the ads, that were "never meant to see the light of day". You know, because the sun don't shine on Ads of the World where the ads were submitted to.

The news that these ads exist has reached every major newsoutlet on the planet, with even Fox News publishing Ford's apology, and the ads sail around with the apology ensuring even greater exposure for the images.

The company said Monday that it regrets the incident, calling the images "contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within Ford." A spokesperson said the company is investigating whether anyone at Ford ever saw the ad.
The ads, created by JWT India, were not approved by Ford, according to Business Insider. The agency made the spot and posted it to website Ads of the World without approval. The full apology from both Ford and JWT can be seen here.

WPP Group, parent company of JWT, and Ford emailed an apology to Business Insider:
“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. Together with our partners, we are reviewing approval and oversight processes to help ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”

Is there any way to stop spec ads from going around the web as real ads? We've repeatedly said that in a digitally connected world scam ads hurts brands, but when ads clearly not commissioned by the client like the KIA pedophile ads wins Cannes Lions, is it any wonder that agences (or a rogue team of creatives at an agency) try to get some other ad-people to look at their work? We have the spec category here just so that people can show off stuff, I have no beef with that. But when things that are so clearly not in the brands tone of voice, or using Hitler for shocks sake, or not even physically possible to do, I wonder why so many news outlets fall for it. Is it simply so, that we've gotten so used to shockvertising, we'll assume all of it is real now? These days , anything a brand says in social media is considered "an ad", even when it's a screendump from a comedy skit for Vodka, or a behind the scenes video of a photoshoot - which aren't really "ads" the way we used to know them.

That news will pick up on things that outrage people is not a new phenomena the top ten spec ads for the past ten years a few years back will show you that shocking = views even back in 2001. VW suicide pretty much lead the way there, even being threatened by a lawsuit from VW.

So, while it's nice that we all have digital portfolios, and people will send their work to all the adsites out there to get some feedback (and who can blame them really), the fault lies not in the poor concept and the eager to be famous team - but the sites that don't check if an ad is real or not (or don't even have a "spec" category).

But how could a simple ad depository site do that, when even Cannes can't?

In the end some of these things seem to be submitted to both awards and sites, in the hopes that the brands won't notice, and I suspect with top brass knowing full well what is going on down in the depths of the creative department.

Fake ads strike again, did McCann India fake a Benetton ad for awards - or...?
JC Penney dresses down Saatchi for fake speed dressing ad
D&AD will name and shame scammers - ECD has to vouch for each entry
The DDB / WWF 911 / Tsunami commercial kerfluffle recap post.


Adland® is supported by your donations alone. You can help us out by buying us a Ko-Fi coffee.
Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
Files must be less than 1 MB.
Allowed file types: jpg jpeg gif png wav avi mpeg mpg mov rm flv wmv 3gp mp4 m4v.
Alec's picture

"Clearly in bad taste, at least, the Indian source also questions the timing of these risqué Ford ads, as the follow by days new anti-rape legislation passed by the Indian Parliament. Ford has responded in a statement, that it and its advertising partner (JWT India) "deeply regret" the ads, and claim that they "never should have happened."

Not only is it in bad taste, it's conceptually devoid. Leave your worries behind means hiding bodies in the trunk?


Every creative associated with this campaign should be canned.

Tom Megginson's picture

I don't think the spec category would make a difference. The Chip Shop Awards entries are openly fake, but this internet thing is really good at letting things spread without context.

The fact that this was created at Ford's Indian AOR and uploaded as real (AOTW asks for a "published" date) is unforgivable. Ford must have demanded the heads of that "junior team" on a plate.

Dabitch's picture

Honestly, I shouldn't have written "scam ad" in the title. It's clearly a spec ad, as in a concept developed and possibly shown to the client who then quite likely nixed it - but meanwhile the team has uploaded it to adsoftheworld because omgweregonnagetfamous.

Like you say, Tom, adsoftheworld asks for publishing date. They also ask for agency name, and people can make shit up here like "bed and breakfast" or "terryandjohnny" as we've seen over the years. I also point out that even Cannes, with its large population of employees sifting through ads can't even weed out scam / ghost ads, that even make it all the way to the top of the metal-winning pile of ads. Not even after passing before the eyes of an elite group of creative judges who should be able to smell a scam ad a mile away. (to be fair they are tired and hungover by the end of the week)

I think spec work does make a difference specifically because, as I point out in deleting the work dilutes the resource, when fact checkers come searching for the truth, they will find it. Labeling the ads what they actually are - as in spec work from team / director / pitch work from agency - whatever - will leave a record on the intarwebs that people can check back to.

Removing it, however, leaves the intarwebs with a thousand retumbled images and no source, no fact check, and no accountability. With the way memes spread, re-appearing every prime number 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17 (it used to be years, but now i think it's months) like rings on the water, Ford will have to re-apologize constantly.

So yeah, I get what you're saying with that ChipChop awards thing. Since there is no site one can check every ad ever on, it's hard when one finds an image and can't find if said ad actually ran or not anywhere. Unless one uses common sense. Then again, some of it can also be attributed to the lazy of re-blogging. You remember the Hitler Frisbee ad? That entered the Danish creative Circle young guns competition before the Chip-Chop awards. There was a record on the web of this ads existence, and that it wasn't a real ad.

In the end, old school journalists used to have time to fact check too. Pick up the phone. Call someone. Email even. I like it today when PR asks when my deadline is. I have no deadline, I will write when I have time. Bloggers blog when they find things. There's no printing press that can be stopped.

kidsleepy's picture

Pick up the phone? Call someone? Fact check? Sounds like work. :\

Dabitch's picture

Those who do get paid for it, should be doing that. However since unpaid blogs created by hobbyists are given as much credence, a very lopsided time-competition began years ago - which we can all trace back to advertising paying for the amount of times their banner is seen, vs the correct target seeing it online. And thus we have Buzzfeed etc. Beancounters have been counting the wrong thing for too long.

But yeah I know, I'm like a fucking broken record at this point. (Few years from now, kids won't even know what this expression means I AM SO OLD!)

Tom Megginson's picture

Good points, dabitch. Business Insider did, indeed, "pick up the phone" but the agency and client refused to answer right away. There's also a lesson here in being johnny-on-the-spot with your social PR.

Dabitch's picture

Well, one thing about picking up the phone today that is different than yesteryear is the global issue. People in the United States complained about ads that ran in the United Kingdom, and presto, they were pulled. What a brand actually approves an runs in one country may not fly in another. And then there's some places where brands allow for a bit of lee-way in creating ads that win awards. Remember wwf 9/11? Remember Tipp-ex? Not to mention the many ads that won awards despite the agency not being the AOR for said brand.

In the end, scam ads, ghost ads, and hoax ads hurts brands more than anyone else.

Campaign says that "JWT India is taking serious action against a young creative ..." over these ads - but fails to elaborate on what this action is, exactly.

The WPP spokesman said: "We deeply regret the publishing of posters that were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within WPP Group.

"These were never intended for paid publication and should never have been created, let alone uploaded to the internet. 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."