Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ford: Ignoring your PR crisis won't make it go away.

Ford Middle East just found itself with a PR crisis on its hands. As much as it bragged about its new ad for women driving in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as much as the whole endeavor backfired. The work was a replica of what Raseef22 had done previously (and was even awarded for it in the Dubai Lynx awards).
Yesterday I commented on a post by one of the creatives behind the Ford ad, who was defending it as an "spark of genius" (his words) but only to be notified as done before after its release by his "compadres". I specifically said that this falls into the category of plagiarism (which is not only copying the concept but also the execution of someone else's work). His reply was "relax dude". Two minutes later my comment and his reply were deleted.
My own linkedin profile was visited repeatedly by a very highly placed executive in Ford Middle East yesterday - I think they were trying to try to pin me on the map. Thankfully, I am not alone in my backlash - many advertising creatives have shared the frustration. Some in much less polite words than mine. Even Adweek pointed out to the fact that the ad could be not "original" - but they still have to rectify their beaming article's title.
So - apart from displaying an ad which has serious intellectual property right issues - where did Ford go wrong?
First the research. There is a reason why every advertising agency has a research department - to check what the competition and other brands did on that specific topic. Believe it or not, a long time back when we were doing ads, the briefs use to come with samples of ads that were already done previously so as not to duplicate them.
Second, the arrogance. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere at all, did Ford concede plainly and simply, that a major error has occurred, nowhere does it say that inadvertently, "great minds think alike" and that the idea which they thought was the idea of the century was already done in the same century. Humbleness goes a long way - Raseef22 is not suing them but it also had a great amount of free publicity from the issue.
Third, the accountability. I did not see, apart from a no apology, any public steps taken by Ford to - not just admit the mistake (which at this stage is beyond the question of innocent or not) - but to probe publicly into the cause of such an event and how it got to be on air when the original campaign was an award winning one (in the Gulf no less).
Fourth, the public defiance. Apart from humbleness, there was no deleting of the ad anywhere but rather deleting of the people's comments who backlashed against it - my own as an example. Man up people. Ignoring it won't make it go away. Step up to the plate, admit the error, and be frank enough. Mistakes- whether intentional or not - happen. So admit them and move on.
This is akin to former spokesperson of the White House Sean Spicer saying "Covfefe" - which was nothing but a typo by President Donald Trump - is something the president and a small circle of people know what it means. It made a silly mistake gain more airing time, and stayed in the news cycle much longer than it should have.
An apology shows the stuff noble entities are made of. In Arabic we say "al roujou3 3an al khata2 fadila" (to disavow a wrong done is a virtue). Show that virtue Ford. No shame in that.