A YouTube ad for a car, 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. They reached a junction and pressed a button on the dashboard which read "Va Va Voom". A screen, which featured a Parisian scene, was moved into position in front of the car and a number of actors and props 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 complainant challenged whether the ad was offensive, because she felt it objectified women.
Renault UK Ltd (Renault) said the video had only been made available on YouTube and was generally intended to be viewed by a younger adult audience than mainstream TV channels. They said the video was a humorous parody with a theme of French culture and it therefore featured various iconic scenes that were associated with Paris, including the Eiffel Tower and a pavement cafe. They said the women who danced around the vehicle were a reference to the Moulin Rouge and that they were intended to be taken as seriously as the other iconic images in the ad. They felt they were dressed in typical Parisian style and that the choreography was a rhythmical send up of the burlesque style, rather than overtly sexual. They advised that the video had been viewed over three million times and they were unaware of any other complaints.
YouTube said the ad did not violate their Community Guidelines or Advertising Policies, but that it was the advertiser's responsibility to ensure that any ad complied with the CAP Code and was targeted appropriately.
The ASA noted that Renault felt the female dancers were just one of the iconic Parisian scenes featured in the ad, which was intended to be a light-hearted parody. However, we considered that the length of the scene in question, along with the change in the music and the use of slow motion shots, meant it had a different tone to the rest of the ad. We accepted that the Moulin Rouge was associated with Paris and that a scene that referenced it could therefore have some relevance to the theme of the ad, if not to the product itself. However, we were concerned that the ad featured a number of shots of the women's breasts and bottoms, in which their heads were obscured, and which we considered invited viewers to view the women as sexual objects. We further considered that the choreography, dress and facial expressions of the dancers were sexually provocative and that the overall impression given was not necessarily that of a parody of a cabaret show such as the Moulin Rouge, particularly as the women were seen to approach the car and gyrate around it, rather than merely performing in front of it. We considered that the ad objectified the dancers by portraying them as sexual objects and that it was therefore likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. (Harm and offence).
The ad must not appear again in its current form.