Ford facing black lash over new Figo model ads

This weekend was hell for Ford Motor Co.’s public relations team. After receiving news that disturbing mockup print ads for the company’s Figo model were circulating the internet, it was all hands on deck.

The ads depicted women tied and gagged in the trunk of the car. One ad displays former Italian Prime Minister driving the car with three women tied up in the trunk.

“Leave your worries behind with Figo’s extra-large boot,” read the tagline.

Employees at the firm that had created the ads posted them to a website to show off their creativity. Ford states that these ads were NOT commissioned by the company OR approved.

This is a public relations nightmare to say the least, but Ford did all it could to respond quickly and gracefully and really what else can be done?

Ford’s statement

“We deeply regret this incident and agree with our agency partners that it should have never happened,” the company said in a statement. “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.”

The company clearly states to the public that they are sorry for the actions of the company. They don’t place the blame, but rather they take control of the situation and explain how these ads are contrary to their standards of professionalism and similar to their agency partners.

But, Ford did make a mistake. Although they issued a public statement, the company had not issued an apology on its website or any social media platform. This becomes an issue because this is where the public goes for an inside look. They want a personal apology and what’s more personal than a company’s Twitter or Facebook page?


A lot can be learned from Ford’s mistake. They did react in a decent time and they did release a statement taking the blame but they missed a crucial part of the process – social media.

Ford could have issued an apology on their Twitter, I mean, it is only 140 characters.

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A PR Nightmare

All it takes is a single click, an employee logged into the wrong account, a joke gone wrong or an uploaded photo to create a public relations disaster.

After reading some corporate social fails, like the KitchenAid tweet during one of the presidential debates and the uploaded picture of a Burger King employee standing on the lettuce from the restaurant, I got to questioning how successful these large corporations were with their responses to these unpredicted crises.  

It’s one thing if a team has some time to acknowledge the situation at hand, then prep and consult for a short period of time, but how would you handle a social media slip when you know you only have, maybe, a minute or two to respond?

Do you ignore the problem and hope no one will notice?

Of course not!

We live in an age of technology. We live in a world where fast, isn’t fast enough. So, if you’re company is on twitter, facebook or any social media outlet, you know the public is going to see your every move and be quick to respond.

So, looking back at what were said to be the biggest PR disasters of 2012, the question is – did the companies do an effective job at responding to the issue and informing the public what had happened?

First, let’s look at how a PR disaster was managed positivley.

In my opinion, KitchenAid is a perfect example of a company responding quickly and effectively to their crisis. After an inappropriate tweet sent to readers about Obama during one of the presidential debates, KitchenAid deleted the tweet and responded quickly to the matter. They made it clear to their followers and the general public that the joke did not reflect the values at KitchenAid. They also clearly stated that this person who tweeted out, would not be tweeting anymore.

Now, why was this successful?

  1. KitchenAid responded quickly and deleted the post.
  2. The company address their brand, announcing to the public that the joke did not reflect their values.
  3. KitchenAid provided the public with their solution. They announced publicly that something was being done about the slip up.

KitchenAid addressed the problem immediately which, in turn, made it no longer a problem. Although this issue is small compared to larger incidents that companies have dealt with, the company responded in a timely manner, addressed their brand letting the public know that they were not behind the problem and provided a solution.

Now onto the good stuff.

American Appeal is an excellent example of a company that did not respond quickly enough to it’s public’s outcry. During Hurricane Sandy, the clothing store American Appeal used the storm to sell merchandise. The store had a “sandysale” online. Several customers responded with tweets disgusted at the stores not-so-funny marketing strategy.

Now, I understand making light of a hard situation. Humour does work in tough times and American Appeal is known for going against the grain, but after receiving the public’s response, you would assume the company would somehow apologize for the tasteless joke.

It didn’t.

So, as you can see, there are ways of addressing a corporate social fail.

You either do, or you don’t.

And if you chose to address the issue head on, you better make sure, as these examples have shown, that you inform your public on what is happening.

Read more PR disasters of 2012: