The idea behind a series of print advertisements that Ogilvy & Mather created for Indian mattress company Kurl-on is that famous people—Steve Jobs and Mahatma Gandhi among them—get knocked down, but then they hit one of the brand’s mattresses and “bounce back.”
One of the ads in the series has created a massive uproar because it depicts a cartoon version of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist who was 14 when she was brutally shot in the head by the Taliban. That’s what she needed to “bounce back” from.
Here’s the ad:
According to The Huffington Post, the ad was conceived in the agency’s India office and designed at a Chilean studio. At least one employee at the studio reportedly expressed concern about the ad but that Kurl-on had asked for “an example of heroism that’s very powerful.”
The ad hadn’t yet run in any paid media, but online news sites got a hold of it and commenters said the depiction of Yousafzai went “way over the line” by depicting the gunshot and by using the teen activist’s story to sell mattresses.
Ogilvy issued this statement Thursday:
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.
Ogilvy’s spokeswoman added that the agency will review its oversight process to “ensure our standards are never compromised again.” Kurl-on has yet to publicly respond to the controversy.