A series of car ads, including one showing women bound and gagged in the trunk of a Ford driven by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, has prompted Internet outrage in India and called forth an apology from Ford India.
The ads came just days after India approved a tougher new law to punish sex crimes, following the fatal gang rape of a student in December. That attack sparked unprecedented protests over the treatment of women in the country.
The ads, uploaded on an industry website, were created by individuals within JWT India, a unit of the world's biggest advertising group WPP. They did not go through the normal review and oversight process, Ford India said.
"We deeply regret this incident and agree with our agency partners that it should have never happened," Ford said. "These posters are against the standards of professionalism and decency within Ford and our agency partners, and weren't part of any projects that Ford and WPP are working on, or for any commissioned commercial use."
Ford India did not say if it was taking action against the agency.
"This was the result of individuals acting without proper oversight and appropriate actions have been taken in the agency where they work to deal with the situation," WPP said.
Comments on Twitter and Facebook dismissed the ads as "shameful" and "disgusting".
"If this is what Ford represents, I will never buy Ford again, and try my best not to sit in one," a Facebook user said.