The ad, entitled “Two Unsuspecting Guys Take the Renault Clio for a Test Drive”, featured hidden camera footage of two men taking a car for a test drive around London.
Once they reached a junction and pressed a button on the dashboard which read “Va Va Voom”, a screen featuring a Parisian scene was moved into position in front of the car. A number of actors and props then appeared, including a man on a scooter, a couple at a café table and a market stall.
A group of women then walked in front of the car, wearing burlesque-style lingerie and danced in a line in front of the car before walking towards it and gyrating and dancing around it. One woman blew a kiss to the driver. The women then walked away in unison and the screen was moved away to reveal a billboard poster which read “Reignite your Va Va Voom”.
The ad was supposed to be a light-hearted parody with a theme of French culture. But despite being viewed more than 3 million times on YouTube, without a whimper, the Advertising Standards Authority launched an investigation after one complainant claimed it was offensive, because it objectified women.
Following the probe, the ASA also took a dim view of the ad, expressing concern that it “featured a number of shots of the women’s breasts and bottoms, in which their heads were obscured”, and which it considered invited viewers to view the women as sexual objects.
Despite Renault’s insistence that it was simply a parody on Parisian style, rather than overtly sexual, the watchdog banned the ad from appearing again in its current form, insisting it was “likely to cause serious or widespread offence”.
Interestingly, a similar ad targeting women, entitled “Two Unsuspecting Girls Take the New Renault Clio for a Test-Drive”, featuring a group of topless male hunks cavorting over a Clio, has yet to attract a single complaint.
The decision is reminiscent of the ASA’s recent adjudication against energy drink Pussy, which was deemed offensive for running a poster campaign featuring the brand name in large font.
However, critics argued that a Lynx ad which offered tips on how to date girls – and was cleared by the ASA – was far more sexist and demeaning to women, and even offensive to men.
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