If the set of controversial Ford Figo ads -- the starting point of this whole debacle -- were part of JWT's entries in this year's Abby Awards, did someone from Ford review and approve them?
Bobby Pawar, chief creative officer and managing partner at JWT India, has stepped down. This high profile exit comes in the wake of the recent Ford controversy.
Recall that just a few days back, a series of offensive ads for Ford's hatchback Figo were leaked online on Ads of the World, a website where agencies have been known to upload unpublished work. Given the provocative nature of the creatives, within hours, criticism flowed in from every side and questions were raised. Were these ads approved by the agency and the brand and entered in the upcoming Abby Awards? Were they created by the agency, rejected by the client and then uploaded online? Or was it a genuine digital error? Wagging tongues fanned the fire and a formal apology on part of both, brand and agency was barely sufficient to put it out; the agency's creative leader has had to step down.
Meanwhile, JWT has issued an official statement on the issue. It reads: "We deeply regret the publishing of posters that were distasteful and contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency at JWT. These were never intended for paid publication, were never requested by our Ford client and should never have been created, let alone uploaded to the internet. These posters were created by individuals within the agency and did not go through the normal review and oversight process. After a thorough internal review, we have taken appropriate disciplinary action with those involved, which included the exit of employees at JWT. These were necessary steps owing to the direct accountability of the concerned individuals as we work to ensure that both the right oversight and processes are strictly enforced so that this never happens again."
While this sounds like a satisfactory save on part of the agency, how long before Ford starts holding people accountable? These posters were entered and then withdrawn from this year's Abby Awards. Procedure demands that every piece of work submitted by an agency requires the written approval of an authority on the brand team. Clearly, someone at Ford gave the nod for these ads. So while Pawar's resignation, a seemingly desperate effort to placate a seething client, is on the table, it is, however, debatable whether this client has the luxury of being the only one with the right to seethe.
Pawar has been with JWT India, a WPP company, since the beginning of 2012. He joined the agency from the Mudra Group, where he served as chief creative officer till the end of 2011. His exit from JWT compels one to think back to his first day at the agency: On January 11, 2012, his former employers gave him a tongue-in-cheek farewell by putting up a huge hoarding outside JWT's Lower Parel office. It said: 'Mudra Welcomes Bobby Pawar to JWT'.
It is also pertinent to note that in 2010, when Ford India shifted its headquarters from Chennai to Gurgaon, WPP set-up a dedicated unit for the brand, called Global Team Ford (GTF). Located adjacent to Ford Marketing in Gurgaon, the unit comprises talent from JWT, Mindshare and Wunderman -- all under one roof. GTF in India is over 100-people strong, with a core team of 75 in Gurgaon and 30 representatives at Ford Dealership Data Hubs spread across the country.