Malala Yousafzai images used in controversial Indian mattress advertisement

Illustrations depicting the Pakistani schoolgirl being shot by the Taliban appear on a poster for Kurl-on

Antonia Molloy
Thursday 15 May 2014 16:13

An Indian mattress company has sparked outrage after using illustrations of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the face by the Taliban, in an advertising campaign.

The advert for Kurl-on mattresses features a sequence of cartoon images of Malala, tracking her from the moment she was brutally shot at point-blank range, right through to her recovery.

But the focal point for this narrative of bravery in the face of violence has proved controversial: Malala is shown falling onto a mattress after being wounded, before springing back to full health - above the tagline “Bounce Back”.

The poster is part of a trio created by advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather's India division. The other two adverts feature Gandhi leaving his career as a barrister to lead India to independence, and Steve Jobs springing back from failure to enjoy huge success with Apple.

But it is the Malala one that is attracting the most attention.

The adverts were designed by the Chilean illustration firm Lamano Estudio and the company's head of strategic planning, Patricio Vergara Calderón, said he feared too much emphasis was being placed on the violent aspect of the Malala advert.

He told the Huffington Post: “The scene portrays a real event, an example of heroism that is very powerful, especially in Eastern countries, which is what they told us they wanted when we started the graphic.”

On Twitter, Farahnaz Ispahani, a former Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, relayed her disgust: "Revolting. MT @SumairaJajja Product Malala! She is now being used to sell #KurlOn mattresses."

A number of other Twitter users also expressed their distaste. @AlishaCoelho said: “Woah, Kurl-on. You just made my toes curl in the worst possible way *shakes head*."

And @RaviKapoor tweeted: “Brand marketing at its worst.”

In a statement describing the campaign Ogilvy India said: “What some of the world's most successful people have in common is the ability to turn adversities to their advantage in the long run. Effectively, they bounce back to life.

“To bounce back, as a figure of speech, also lends itself effortlessly to the spring mattress category. The ads were therefore stories about famous personalities bouncing back or reclaiming their lives to become legends.”

Malala, now 16, was shot by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan’s Swat Valley in 2012. Her "crime" was daring to speak out for the rights of girls to receive education.

President Barack Obama has called her the “bravest girl in the world.”

On Wednesday a British artist’s portrait of the schoolgirl, now being educated in Birmingham, brought in more than $100,000 (£60,000) at auction.

Christie's said the painting by Jonathan Yeo sold for $102,500 (£61,200), including the buyer's premium.

The sale proceeds are going to the Malala Fund charity. The fund said the money would in turn be given to Nigerian non-profits that focus on education for women and girls in the wake of the kidnapping of more than 250 Nigerian schoolgirls.

Read more: Malala inspires thousands of schoolchildren
Choral work honouring Malala
Malala supports #BringBackOurGirls campaign

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