Adverts. What did unimaginative nasty twerps do for a living before advertising? Many were lawyers I suppose. I tweet a lot of mini rants about ads but two have wound me up to the point of needing more space. The first is Audi’s new ad. If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is:
Personally, I didn’t choose my car with any regard to the ads of different manufacturers. If I had, I’d have ended up buying a bike instead. Most car ads are pretty rubbish really but Audi are breaking new ground. The concept itself is patronising, although in fairness I suppose it’s true that I do see Audi drivers as status driven idiots who just want the badge (I don’t really see that phenomenon as being specific to one gender or the other). Anyway, the concept of this ad aimed specifically at women is that we’re obsessed with style over function and either can’t spot or don’t care about quality. I don’t put style first (and I hate terms like “on trend”). I buy what I know is good quality and I buy what makes me happy. That’s rarely the most trendy thing and it’s rarely a designer label. When it comes to buying a car, performance and comfort come first. The look of the car matters but not in the sense that I simply must have a particular make of car. And, oh yeah, price. Affordability’s pretty damned important too. So, I don’t recognise myself in this primped polished style-obsessed woman they’ve put in front of me and I don’t like the sense that Audi want to patronise me about the purchasing decisions I make in any area of my life. If they wanted to convert me to their brand, they failed at the conceptual stage before they ever began putting the actual ad together.
The concept isn’t what’s got women talking about the ad though. The end product is. I felt deeply uncomfortable watching the ad and various elements all added up together left me with that sense. By the end of the ad, you could just as easily be watching an ad about rape crisis. How on earth did Audi think that turning a seemingly successful woman into a victim would appeal to women? I’m getting ahead of myself though.
In and of itself, the fact that her heel broke and then her handbag strap doesn’t make her a victim. If they’d stopped there, without ripping her skirt the overall impression would’ve been different. There are ways of portraying a bad day which, while not actually funny (because most advertisers have no sense of humour) convey a “hey, we’ve all been there” message and it’s true. We’ve all been there. We’ve forgotten our brolly or been splashed by cars, we’ve got our heel stuck in a crack in the pavement, spilled our drink, caught the hem of our coat or trousers in our shoe, broken a zip. These things happen. They’re part of life no matter how well made you think things are. I once walked around a supermarket on a completely disintegrated heel (shoes I’d worn almost daily for several years, I hasten to add) which I’d caught on a crack in the pavement on my way in without noticing it until I got back to the car! These ads work for women and for men. But they’re very different to this ad. This ad makes an entirely different use of lighting, music and slow motion and, most of all, close ups. It lingers on the seem in her skirt as it rips and on her face. The slow motion and the lighting create a creepily sensual effect. To me, the problem isn’t the fact that she’s fallen. It’s not about showing a woman on her knees or the fact that her accident hurt her. It’s about sensualising that accident. It’s about turning it into something it isn’t. By doing that, they both turn the woman into a victim and make it seem like they think it’s ok not just to laugh at her but to leer at her. That’s what sickens me. I’m sure most men watching it would feel equally uncomfortable but there’s a sense that the men involved in making the ad are a caricature of lechery, rubbing sweaty palms over their thighs as the close up of her skirt tearing happens.
And what about the presence of the car itself in the ad? As the SQ5 drives past her in the background, are we meant to see it as a safe refuge from the vulnerable situation the woman is now in? Some men have tweeted that the moral of the story is that Audi drivers would drive past a woman in distress, which seems like a fair comment. Even if they’re joking, it’s true that it could be read that way.
What baffles me is the fact that Audi believe it’s not just acceptable to put an ad out which turns a successful woman into a “sexy” victim but that it’s intended to appeal to women. Even if concept’s not really intended to appeal to women like me, what about the women who identify themselves with her? Wouldn’t they feel uncomfortable, maybe feel a slight sense of skin crawling fear, even if they’ve never been a victim of sexual assault? If this is what an ad aimed at women looks like Audi, don’t bother in future.
While I’m on the subject, another ad really wound me up recently: Cadburys Crispello. How do chocolate makers manage to make adverts that put people off chocolate? It shouldn’t even be possible. Admittedly, even the product itself pisses me off, being targeted at women because Cadbury says it helps women who are dieting but don’t have the self control to not eat a full chocolate bar. The ad was something else though, a bizarre little experience which must have been dreamed up by someone who heard of Lolita once but had no idea what it was really about. Here it is
Anyone else think this is massively inappropriate at any time but even more so when we’re seeing a string of elderly celebrities being picked up and accused of assaulting teenage girls? Again, even the concept is off. It has nothing to do with chocolate at all really but if Cadbury say women are their target market for this product, you’d think they’d make an ad with a concept intended to appeal to women. Mind you, anyone reading this has a one word answer to that point, don’t they? Flake.
I know there are women working in the advertising industry. I just don’t know what they do all day to earn their salaries. Maybe they have the most frustrating job on earth: constantly trying to convince their male colleagues that the new ad concept will actually put existing consumers of their products off, rather than bringing in new ones. Opinion on this ad is divided on Twitter. When I looked, a lot of young girls were tweeting on it (just after it had been broadcast again) and some were creeped out by and it and some thought it was cool. Personally, I’m on the side of creepy. An ad where a teenage girl sings in front of her boyfriend and his parents that her boyfriend’s dad is hot and she wants to see him with his clothes off is creepy. It just is. It’s not funny. It doesn’t make me want to eat chocolate and God alone knows what made them think that this was an entertaining little ditty to sell chocolate to weight conscious women…unless they thought women watching it would see themselves in the mother role and feel the need to shed some weight until they’re as sylph-like and clear-skinned as the teenage girl blatantly hitting on their husbands…ugh.