When an Inspirational Icon May Not be the Best Icon

Ogilvy and Mather India created a controversial print advertisement for the Indian mattress company Kurl-on. The company philosophy is “Bounce Back” and Ogilvy has created ads depicting famous people such as Steve Jobs and Ghandi getting knocked down but when they hit a Kurl-on mattress they bounce back. However, they went too far in their past advertisement showing a cartoon version of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist who was 14 when she was shot by the Taliban. The ad shows her bouncing back on a Kurl-on mattress. They went through with the ad because Kurl-on believed that it showed an act of heroism that was very powerful. This ad has not been printed on any paid media but several internet sources got a hold of it and commenters were enraged. Ogilvy issued a statement on May 15th stating “We deeply regret this incident and want to apologize to Malala Yousafzai and her family”. They also promised to take whatever corrective action they found to be necessary. Kurl-on has yet to formally respond to the controversy. While their intentions may have been good, do you think it was appropriate to use her as an icon for the brand?