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That Ford India Ad Isn't As Unusual As You Might Think

Two proposed Ford India ads — both depicting women bound and gagged in Ford trunks — forced an apology from the company, but marketing that uses violence against women to sell a product is hardly new.

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Last week, a pair of proposed ads for Ford India — produced by ad company JWT and, allegedly, posted to the Ford website without Ford's explicit permission — made the internet rounds, provoked outcry, and subsequently elicited an apology from Ford.

The ads — one depicting former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the wheel of a car with three of his so-called "Bunga Bunga girls" bound and gagged in the trunk, the other with Paris Hilton driving another Ford car with the three eldest Kardashian sisters tied up in the back — are offensive, sexist caricatures. They were rightfully prevented from reaching publication, but many, many other ads far more offensive and graphically violent than these — featuring real women, no less — made the pages of fashion magazines and department store windows on a regular basis in the later aughts. Fashion brands in 2005-2010, especially, took the view that there was nothing sexier, apparently, than a well-accessorized abused girl.

It's a welcome surprise, then, that the recent Ford India ad provoked so much outrage when earlier ads of its ilk went unnoticed. It just might be an indication that sexist, violent ads like those seen above — while bound to pop up again from time to time — are largely becoming a trend of the past.

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