In an earlier era, the news media was the link between current events and the common man. They tracked, analysed and interpreted events and then conveyed that interpretation to us. Today the linkage between the common man and the media has become a bit more complex. While the earlier linkage / information flow pattern still remains, on many stories there’s also a reverse flow thanks to social media. Many issues that would otherwise have gone unnoticed get picked up on social media, and mainstream media notices them after (or because) they have gone viral.

Consider, for instance, the Ford Figo ads that sparked outrage recently; these showcased the extra-large boot of the car by showing three scantily clad bound and gagged women inside it. While I’d have called the ad misogynistic, regressive and in bad taste at any time, given the current environment in India it also showed that at least some people existed in a time warp that totally blanked out current events and the mood in this country. You might cavil at the lack of my sense of humour, but while I feel that these would be ok in MAD magazine or in a men’s changing room, as an ad intended to sell more products or win an award (!!), these lack a certain something. (Read Anuja Chauhan skewering the ad here – frankly, her article was one reason I desisted from doing so in detail, she’s already done it so efficiently.)

Created as award ads, these ads would probably have gone unnoticed a few years earlier, but with sharing so easy on social media, these went all around the world and created a storm that resulted in an apology from Ford and heads rolling at the ad agency. In fact, on Wednesday, 27th March, after the news about the ad agency’s reaction broke, in just 7 hours there were over 1500 tweets on this issue, with a duplicated reach of 4.6 Mn people.

As this post on adsoftheworld says, ‘The world is becoming increasingly smaller. If you post something publicly on the internet it can be replicated in a very short amount of time. Mass media picks up stories from social media and blogs. Once something is out it’s impossible to contain it.  Think twice about how your ad will be perceived in different cultures of the world.’


If you want to read more about this controversy, follow the links below :

A slightly different point of view from Prathap Suthan.

And here too :

For an analysis of how the ad spread around the world, read this.

Other news about these ads here, here, here and here.

  • Zenobia Driver