An article recently ran on CNN.com entitled, “Audi pulls ‘insensitive’ ad featuring girl eating banana in front of car”. It’s not often you hear of an Audi ad sparking such controversy, so I thought it was worth a click-through to the full story.
The caption wasn’t an issue but apparently the imagery was.
From the NY Daily News: “The image shows a cool-looking young girl — wearing a leopard-print dress, a denim jacket, pink rounded sunglasses — eating a banana, while the wind blows her hair off her face. She’s also leaning against the grille of the shiny red car.”
But shortly after its release, the internet ignited with criticism. Here are some of the negative comments the Audi ad received:
- “Nice, that you show how children can easily be killed by your cars.”
- “This is just tasteless. A child in front of the grille, who is hardly visible from the driver’s seat. What kind of advertising is this?”
- Some actually found the image sexually suggestive, saying a “little girl with phallic symbol in her hand.”
As a marketer and designer who looks at advertising day after day, the Audi ad reminds me of most car ads – highlighting people and places which have little or nothing to do with selling cars. In this case, it’s just a cute little girl standing in front of a car – nothing more.
Here’s a perfect example in support of Audi’s so-called “insensitive” ad.
Did anyone think Subaru was suggesting that we should hand over the keys to our four-legged friends to drive our cars down Main Street?
At first, I was going to question when did we become such a fragile and sensitive society, after all, the above comments certainly warrant such an observation.
But then I realized that the problem isn’t over-sensitivity at all. It’s people’s inability to differentiate between what’s truly harmless and what’s a targeted, calculated transgression.
Yes, there are undoubtedly some advertisements out there which warrant such criticism. But I don’t believe the Audi ad is one of them. Just like Subaru wasn’t suggesting our dogs should drive our cars, Audi was not promoting that little girls should play in front of cars or that anything sexual was meant by a fruit many young children enjoy eating.
Interestingly enough, the Audi ad probably wouldn’t have garnered much buzz for the brand without the vocal few who drew attention from media outlets across the globe. I’m sure Audi appreciates all the free publicity.
We as a society need to be able to skillfully differentiate between what is a legitimate transgression and what is not. Instead of being emotionally reactive, which the internet and social media makes so effortless, we need to look deeper than our own prejudices and stop fabricating stories which have no business entering the conversation.
I end this post with a favorite quote by Confucius: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”