Ad agency Oglivy & Mather has apologized for a controversial print ad that shows Malala Yousafzai “bouncing back” after getting shot in the head.
The graphic ad, which was created for an Indian mattress company, Kurl-On, depicts the young Pakistani activist being shot in the face point-blank, falling backwards onto a mattress covered in blood, recovering on a hospital mattress, then springing back up to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. At the bottom of the advertisement, the text reads, “Bounce Back.”
The cartoon-like illustration has sparked outrage among the international community as the image has been shared on social media and the Internet.
“We deeply regret this incident and want to personally apologise to Malala Yousafzai and her family,” said spokesperson Greg Carton in a statement on the website. “We are investigating how our standards were compromised in this case and will take whatever corrective action is necessary.”
“In addition, we have launched a thorough review of our approval and oversight processes across our global network to help ensure that our standards are never compromised again,” the statement reads, adding that the recent Kurl-On ads are “contrary to the beliefs and professional standards of O&M and their clients.”
The ad was part of the three-part “Bounce Back” series. The other two ads showcased Mahatma Gandhi getting thrown out of a train to becoming a peace activist and Steve Jobs bouncing back after getting kicked out from Apple, but the ad showing Yousafzai has drawn the most controversy.
At age 14, Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for championing girls’ education. Now 16, Yousafzai has become the international symbol of women’s rights and access to education.
Industry experts and other individuals commented on the image first released by an online ad forum Ads of the World, writing on Facebook their thoughts on the global ad agency and the mattress advertisement.
Jennifer Mathis wrote, “This is disgusting – shame on Ogilvy. I’m sorry, I’m all for creativity in advertising, but this is just poor taste.”
“It’s sad that we’ve allowed our moral compass to get skewed so badly that we believe it’s alright to use a 14-year-old girl being shot in the face as a piece of advertising,” Dhruv W wrote.