In 2012, at the age of 14, a Taliban gunman climbed onto a bus Malala Yousafzai was riding in and shot her in the head. Though she nearly died in the attack, Yousafzai recovered, and courageously returned to advocating on behalf of girls’ education rights. She has become internationally famous for her activism in favour of allowing women the same educational opportunities as men, both in her native Pakistan and abroad.
Unfortunately, the Indian mattress company Kurl-on decided to use the shooting incident as fodder for one of its latest print ads.
In it, a cartoon version of Yousafzai is seen being shot with a rifle. The ad then shows several iterations of Yousafzai as she recovers in a hospital and ultimately goes on to win an award for her advocacy. Along the way, she falls on a Kurl-on mattress and “bounces back.”
The ad is one in a series of three made by Ogilvy India that shows several famous figures as they go through times of difficulty only to hit a Kurl-on mattress and bounce back. None of the other ads, though, depict the shooting of a teenage girl.
In India, standards for ads are completely different than in the West. There is almost no such thing as political correctness in India, and Indian advertising often remains untrammeled by questions of taste or appropriateness. In other words, while Americans might find these ads appalling, Indians won’t care.
Here’s the ad Kurl-on made documenting the late Steve Jobs’ departure from Apple and ultimate comeback:
And here’s Kurl-on’s ad featuring Gandhi:
It’s also not clear whether these are real ads or whether they are “spec” creative — speculative ads that never ran in paid media and made only for the attention they will get. However, the fact that an Ogilvy creative team has taken credit for the ads suggests they were at least approved within the agency itself.
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