Last week, BNet wrote an article about disturbing ads that were awarded prizes at the Cannes ad festival. At the top of the list was a Kia Motors ad for its dual zone air conditioning. The ad, which was created by the Brazilian ad agency Moma, won a Silver Lion at Cannes. The ad, which can be seen in full on Peggy Orenstein’s blog, has two columns. On the left is a young school girl interacting innocently with her male teacher. On the right is a teenage sexualized “school girl” in a sexually-charged situation with her teacher, which is intended as a parallel to the column on the left.
In the BNet article, author Jim Edwards commented on the inappropriateness of the ad. He wrote:
Carmaker Kia (KIMTF) has some explaining to do about why it commissioned a print ad campaign with a pedophilia theme. More broadly, the ad agency business has some explaining to do about why so many of its “award winning” ads are just plain offensive. Not in a clever way, not in a sexy way, not in an ironic way — but in a mean, unpleasant way.
KIA motors responded to Edwards in the comment section on his article. Its comment, which is intended to distance Kia from this ad, said:
Kia Motors America (KMA) has become aware of an offensive piece of advertising material that was created by an ad agency in Brazil that KMA has no business relationship with and has never worked with. This ad was not created in the U.S. by Kia Motors America or any of its marketing partners and does not reflect the opinions or values of KMA or Kia Motors Corporation. The ad is undoubtedly inappropriate, and on behalf of Kia Motors we apologize to those who have been offended by it. We can guarantee this advertisement has never and will never be used in any form in the United States, and our global headquarters in Seoul, South Korea is addressing the issue with the independent Brazilian distributor.
Edwards questions this response in a follow-up post. He explains that the rules at the Cannes Festival clearly require that the ads “must have been made for clients and run as part of normal campaigns paid for by client media budgets.” However, because Brazilian ad agencies have previously been caught entering ads that were not approved by clients, it is unclear whether this ad was in fact approved by Kia or not.
Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, also wrote about the ad. In her post KIA: We Care About Girls EVERYWHERE, Not Just the U.S., she commented on Kia’s guarantee that the “advertisement has never and will never be used in any form in the United States:”
So perhaps it’s true that KIA America wasn’t involved. Perhaps. But that doesn’t make it okay, does it? Given the global crisis in child prostitution and trafficking, it’s actually more offensive that KIA believes that selling cars via child pornography is no problem as long as they don’t do it in the U.S. What’s more, Moma is located in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a country that is said to have the worst child trafficking record in the world after Thailand. No wonder the agency thought the ad was “clever.”
Regardless of whether the ad was approved by Kia or not, the fact that any reputable ad agency would think this was a good idea is disturbing. Depicting an innocent interaction between a student and a teacher and turning it into a pornographic pedophile fantasy is offensive. It is unclear who this message is supposed to appeal to — certainly not the parents of children who might be objectified that way or the teachers who would lose their jobs for it.
How did an ad like this win a prestigious award like the Cannes Silver Lion? What does this say about the supposed professionals who worked on the ad and the judges who found it appealing?
Image credit: Vince Alongi on flickr