Audi grovels over ‘dumb’ and ‘creepy’ online campaign

audi2German car giant Audi might have won more advertising awards than you can shake a stick at but it is unlikely to be picking up many plaudits for its latest campaign after being forced into a car crash apology following complaints that the activity is “sexually suggestive”, “dumb” and “creepy”.

The new ad, for the Audi RS 4 Avant, was posted on the company’s official Twitter account this week and depicts a young girl leaning on the front of the high-performance car while she eats a banana, under the slogan: “Lets your heart beat faster – in every aspect.”

The company, arguably as famous for its “Vorsprung durch Technik” strapline as its top notch motors, uses a number of agencies for its advertising. Multi-award winning BBH has worked on the business for four decades; 72andSunny Amsterdam won the global account last November; We Are Social handles UK social media and Tribal runs the digital account, although this has recently been put up for review.

It is not known which agency was responsible for this particular campaign; but there is little doubt about the reaction on Twitter.

Within minutes of being posted, user comments ranged from “child with banana in mouth and flash car – so wrong in EVERY aspect” and “little girl with phallic symbol in her hand. Clear, super…” to “Let’s add it up: Red=eroticism, sports car=substitute for potency, animal print mini-skirt=sex appeal, banana=phallic symbol. But sure this is all just accidental…” and “this has to be one of the dumbest campaigns of all time”.

Even so, other Twitter users could not see anything wrong. One wrote: “I have to say that the problem lies in the minds of people who see this ad as sexual.”

Audi has now admitted that the ad was a “mistake”, tweeting: “We hear you and let’s get this straight: We care for children. We sincerely apologise for this insensitive image and ensure that it will not be used in future.”

The car giant added that it was investigating how the ad came to be published in the first place, suggesting that either it was not approved by the client or that they are now trying to wriggle out of taking responsibility.

Back in May, Audi’s parent company Volkswagen was forced to withdraw 10-second video ad from its social media accounts after it appeared to show a white power gesture and racial slur.

The ad showed a pair of giant white hands moving a black man away from a new yellow VW Golf before flicking him into a café called “Petit Colon” – French for little colonist – while there were claims that the hand could be interpreted as making a “white power” gesture.

At the time, the company said “without question: the video is inappropriate and tasteless”. It also vowed to “clarify how something like this could happen” insisting “there will be consequences”.

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