Italian car maker Fiat has apologized to China over its new television commercial featuring U.S. actor Richard Gere and a reference to Tibet after Chinese newspapers carried reports about it.
Its shows Gere driving the car from Hollywood to Tibet, whose autonomy from China he supports.
Just two brief comments here, one of which is quite obvious:
1. Someone should get fired for this, and not because of the political overtones themselves. No, someone should be fired for incompetence. Through the whole vetting process for this ad, no one thought this was a bad idea? Really? (I will set aside, for the moment, the wisdom of using Richard Gere to sell anything.)
2. More important, this is another great example of globalization of information via the Internet, and the reason why multinationals can no longer hide anything these days. This ad was not shown in the PRC, but that doesn’t matter any more. MNCs need to realize that not only should their vetting procedures take into account advert laws of the jurisdictions in which the ad is being shown, but they should also include a vetting of any extra-territorial issues (particularly hot button political ones!) that make up the content of the ads themselves.
What a fiasco. Not only does this make Fiat look bad to folks in China, but their subsequent apology over this issue most likely will not win them any friends in European markets, where consumers are probably big Richard Gere fans (at least on the narrow political issue). It’s a lose-lose situation.