Do Pedophile Fantasies Belong in Award-Winning Ads?

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?

Related stories:

Pedophilia book offered then pulled from Amazon

Child pornography victim demands restitution

Image credit: Vince Alongi on flickr


Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

BRAZIL has some explaining to do -- and I question the ethical mindset of the judges. KIA is not to blame it appears.

Glen P.
Glen P7 years ago

This Kia ad has NOTHING to do with pedophilia.

If you think that it does then there's actually something wrong with YOUR head.

When I saw the ad nothing made me interpret it in the way some of you want to interpret it, even KNOWING what I was being told to interpret it as.

The two scenes are clearly meant to be completely different. One innocent and 'cool', the other steamy and 'hot'. There's nothing sexual about the scene on the left (nor is it intended to be).

The scene on the right is. And even if that were supposed to be a 'well-developed' willing teenage girl, THAT is not pedophilia. Extremely inappropriate for an actual teacher/student encounter (and a common fantasy), but NOT pedophilia. In fact, it's not even a mental disorder as you would then implicate just about every heterosexual male on the planet who finds developed teenagers sexually attractive.

And it doesn't matter HOW desperately you want to believe otherwise, its just not the reality we live in. Despite living in a society that completely screwed your heads up to believe otherwise.

colleen p.
colleen p7 years ago here you go. I have a gift for you

Maarja L.
Maarja L7 years ago

This ad is wrong.

Mrs Shakespeare
Mrs Shakespeare7 years ago

Everytime I see children involved in such scenes I just feel like sueing their effin' parents! Yes, the producers should be blamed, but did anyone think about those kids' parents and how equally responsible they are?

Bernadette P.
berny p7 years ago

People will do anything for money and really dont care about the message they give....unless people make a fuss like now.....

They like to call art anything that they can make money out of......what a world for our lovely kids!

colleen p.
colleen p7 years ago

adriana j., I think they are the same person? the teacher is seeing her as a sexed up teen. that is why it goes left right, left, right, left right. and not to be read, down down down on both ends
the look on the teacher's face at the bottom when he says "where do we start" could be read as if he is going "Ohh tasty"

I think that is how people see it..
I shown my mom the ad, she says in the right demographic it is witty, in the wrong one it is not. your mileage may vary is wat it is.

the kia has climate control. so you can have cool on one side, and hot on the other. hence why it is split and so different. One side is hot and sexy, the other cool and innocent.

again and again, if this caters to pedos, then all those clothing for little girls that are sexy do to. thus the fashion industry is wacky. If this ad is inappropriate, pants that say "juicy" on the tush for a 8 year old is close to porn. Then again "Juicy" is a brand name. so the kids might as well have "Pepsi" writen on them.

Kimberly W.
Kimberly W.7 years ago

It really won an award??

Carol Torres
Carol Torres7 years ago

I agree just don't buy Kia.

adriana j.
adriana j7 years ago

So, like, let me be the feminist to point out that, as I understand it, the offensive part of the ad is the column with the girl-child in it? So... no problem whatsoever with the sexualized teenager? I mean the ENTIRE ad is obviously sexist and objectifying, but does it not fall right into place with everything else being portrated in the media today? Thumbing lines in the sand becomes a tricky, tricky thing when people can watch kim k having an ultrasound to "prove her ass is real" and then this ad by Kia. I mean, let's be less horrified and connect the dots here!