AAMI – Advertising geniuses or racist colonialists?

Article by Advertise Here (Blog) /
October 20, 2012 /
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Romeo and Juliet, Jack and Rose, Ginny and Harry…

Rhonda and Ketut.

The Australian car insurance advertising landscape has taken an unexpected turn, with the initiation of its first impossible love. Fiery haired Rhonda and Balinese hotel manager Ketut were never meant to fall for each other, yet an unrelenting mutual love of safe driving created a match made in AAMI heaven.

The ‘Rhonda and Ketut’ campaign comprises of a series of snippets from Rhonda’s ‘journey to Bali’, the financial side of which was of course made possible through the savings accumulated from AAMI’s safe driver rewards program.

With over 50,000 views on YouTube and a Facebook page with 113,000 members, Rhonda and Ketut have solidified their status as advertising icons. Yet, their cult following is not wholly convinced with the notion of an innocent love.

On the one side of the debate, we have the “Rhonda is mine!” t-shirt wearing fanatics who take the advert at face value  – that the advert depicts nothing more than a middle-aged Australian woman who has travelled to Bali and engaged in some harmless flirting with a Balinese local.

On the other side, we have the more cynical approach, the angered viewers who abide by the opinion that the campaign reinforces issues of colonial supremacy and creates connotations of sex slavery. A little drastic perhaps, but I can understand their point – an Asian man in his twenties waiting on a middle-aged white woman… alarms were always going to be sounded.  Unfortunately, Ketut can be portrayed in a manner of unfortunate lights – perhaps the most prominent as a desperate Balinese man using middle-aged-slightly-tubby Rhonda as his meal ticket.

The literature surrounding the campaign is surprisingly dense, yet it was a unique insight by Lauren Rosewarne that interested me most. That being, that the portrayal of an Asian man as ‘sexy’ within Western culture should be congratulated rather than condemned. Rosewarne prompts the question, in a country with over 2 million Asian citizens, how is the Australian media so immune to Asian influence? Running with this tangent, is the cynicism evident towards this advert a direct reflection of our lack of exposure to Asian actors on our screen? I would suggest that if there was a Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Singaporean man on our televisions every second minute, we wouldn’t run to immediate conclusions of sex slavery when a Balinese man popped up on our car insurance ads.

Looks like I’ll be investing in a “You look so hot today Rhonda” t-shirt after all.