Ogilvy Apologizes for Distasteful Ad

Ad agency Ogilvy & Mather has apologized for an offensive ad produced for Kurl-on, an Indian mattress company. What could go wrong when portraying a 14-year-old Taliban shooting victim in a cartoon? 

Kurl-on Ad

The company wanted to show that heroic figures "bounce back," but the ad doesn't quite work. The New York Times describes Malala Yousafzai, featured in the promotion: 

"At the age of 11, Malala Yousafzai took on the Taliban by giving voice to her dreams. As turbaned fighters swept through her town in northwestern Pakistan in 2009, the tiny schoolgirl spoke out about her passion for education - she wanted to become a doctor, she said - and became a symbol of defiance against Taliban subjugation."

Two other ads in the series aren't much better. Steve Jobs is shown pushed out a door, and Gandhi is thrown from a moving train. 

Before this one hit paid media outlets, online news organizations flagged the image. Although Kurl-on hasn't responded to inquiries, Ogilvy issued this statement: 

"We deeply regret this incident and want to apologize to Malala Yousafzai and her family. We are investigating how our standards were compromised in this case and will take whatever corrective action is necessary."

Discussion Starters: 

  • How do Kurl-on and Ogilvy share responsibility for the ad? How did this happen? 
  • The ad was created in Ogilvy's Indian office and produced in a Chilean studio. How, if at all, do these facts affect your thinking about the ad?