NEWS: Ford blames O&M for racial gaffe

Ford and its advertising agency, Ogilvy and Mather, have endured a major embarrassment over a sensational blunder in which white faces were superimposed over black ones in a below-the-line campaign.

Ford and its advertising agency, Ogilvy and Mather, have endured a major

embarrassment over a sensational blunder in which white faces were

superimposed over black ones in a below-the-line campaign.



The four workers - Patricia Marquis, Douglas Sinclair, Keith Thomas and

George Pinto - were photographed along with 21 other workers from Ford’s

Dagenham plant for the ‘Everything we do is driven by you’ poster

campaign which launched in 1991.



Then, this year, the photograph was used again as the front cover of the

latest Ford Credit Options brochure. But in this version, white faces

and hands were superimposed over the black ones.



Ford is blaming the fiasco on an O&M error. The car giant insists that

no malice or racial offence was intended. Its explanation is that O&M

mistakenly sent it negatives which had been doctored for a marketing

campaign by Ford in Poland, where it was felt the presence of black

faces did not reflect the overwhelmingly white Polish population.



A statement from Ford claimed: ‘When the mistake was discovered

immediate action was taken to withdraw the brochure containing the

picture. There was absolutely no racial motive.’



O&M is understood to be conducting an internal enquiry to find out how

the changes occurred. O&M’s chief executive, Mike Walsh, and managing

director, Tom Bury, were unavailable for comment as Campaign went to

press.



The row has already led to a three-hour unofficial strike by workers at

Dagenham. Ford has now apologised to the four workers and sent each a

cheque for pounds 1,500 to compensate for ‘distress’.



Ford is coming under increasing pressure from groups such as the Anti-

Racist Alliance to sack O&M for doctoring the photograph.



Nerendra Makanji, the ARA’s chairman, said: ‘If Ford was serious about

promoting equal opportunities it would have fired the advertising

agency.’



The ARA has called on the Advertising Standards Authority to issue a

firm code to ensure that the portrayal of black people in advertising is

‘representative and fair’.



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