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India: Ford ad, featuring women bound, gagged, sparks controversy

A print advertisement for the Ford Figo in India has stirred controversy after depicting women bound and gagged in the trunk.

The ad also features the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi driving the vehicle with a smirk on his face.

See the picture here.

Presumably, the automaker was hoping to capitalize on anti-Italy sentiment in India while illustrating that the car has a lot of trunk space.

"Leave your worries behind with Figo's extra-large boot," it reads.

But Ford misjudged the country's new sensitivity to violence against women, especially in the wake of a much publicized gang-rape trial.

After critics labeled the ad distasteful and misogynistic, Ford issued an apology.

"We deeply regret this incident and agree with our agency partners that it should have never happened," Ford said in a statement.

"The posters are contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within Ford and our agency partners."

GlobalPost senior correspondent in India, Jason Overdorf, says that Ford's apology seems to have done the trick.

"That's not too surprising, however," he said, "India's now notorious thin skin is really limited to political interest groups vying for power, such as Hindu conservatives who take offense to MF Hussain's nude paintings or Islamic conservatives who take exception to Salman Rushdie being invited to speak at a literary festival."

The fact that Ford was compelled to issue an apology for the ad in the first place suggests that "women" are emerging as such a political interest group, Overdorf says.

"But the fact that the furor was so easily quieted suggests that the grouping is too diverse, with too many different interests, to emerge as a potent force in the angling for patronage that defines Indian politics," he said.

The Berlusconi ad is one of three similar ads.

The others feature Michael Schumacher with three of his rivals stuffed in the trunk and Paris Hilton driving with the Kardashian sisters bound in the trunk.

Jason Overdorf contributed to this report from New Delhi.

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