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ASA finds Mazda 5 surprisingly stimulating

Rejects breast-related TV ad complaints

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Hundreds of complaints about an advert for Mazda, that showed a female mannequin becoming sexually aroused by a driving experience, have been rejected. The ads were likened to the family-friendly humour of a Carry On movie.

The ad showed a man loading female mannequins wearing lingerie into the back of a Mazda car. As the Advertising Standards Agency describes it: "The camera focused on the smooth breasts of one of the mannequins."

Viewers of the TV and cinema ad saw the man driving around a city, inter-cut with shots of the same mannequin's face and its hand hitching up its negligee to expose the top of its stockings. Its eyes glazed over. The man parked outside a lingerie store and lifted the mannequin out of the car. Its chest was at his eye level. Its nipples were now erect. The driver gave the mannequin a bemused look. There was a shot of the mannequin's face and the sound of a woman's giggle. A voiceover said: "The all new Mazda 5. Surprisingly stimulating".

The ASA received complaints from 404 viewers who said the ad was offensive in its sexual reference; or that it was demeaning to women by portraying them as sexual objects; that the broadcast times were unsuitable because the ad would be seen by children; and that it should not have been shown in cinemas for movies that carried a PG rating.

OUT-LAW also received a complaint from a viewer of the ad: "I wish to complain about the new car advert. Where he puts the mannequins in his car and drives off, one lady gets roused (sic), with her nipples erect, it is very degrading to all women." We redirected the complainant to the ASA.

The ASA heard from the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) which "considered the ad's creative treatment carefully." Key to its approval appears to be the driver's surprise and confusion in the end scene: he showed no sexual interest.

The Cinema Advertising Association also found the sexual reference "mild" by comparison to much of the innuendo in PG films. It compared the humour to that of a Carry On movie.

The ad agency, J. Walter Thompson, said its ad highlighted the exciting aspects of a type of car that many may regard as uninspiring. French, German and British audiences "reacted positively" to the adult theme in test screenings.

The ASA wrote: "We understood that the depiction of a mannequin becoming aroused by the excitement of a journey in a car may not have been to everyone's taste but we did not consider it likely to cause serious or widespread offence."

As for the concern about objectifying and demeaning women, the ASA considered that the intention was "to humorously present the absurd notion that an inanimate object could be turned on in the first place."

It concluded: "We considered that to the majority of viewers the sexualisation of the mannequin would not have been taken to be demeaning to women or portraying them as sex objects."

Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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