Audi’s new social media campaign promising to dispel the stereotype about bad women drivers raises eyebrows

Article by Caroline Zielinski / /
May 07, 2015 /
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AUDI has attempted to do what no other car company has not done before: take the stereotype of bad women drivers, and turn the concept on its head.

A new ad aims to counter the perception that women are “bad” drivers; an impression which has resulted in thousands of jokes, memes and derision directed at female drivers.

In what appears a thought-provoking advertisement, Audi Ireland begins in silence with only the following the words emblazoned on the screen: “There’s a problem on our roads. Women drivers have become a negative stereotype.

“It’s online; there’s a meme; there’s even a hashtag. Women drivers have become synonymous with bad drivers, so Audi has decided to change the perception.

“We have created a hashtag #womendrivers. Users click expecting funny stories or videos, and instead find articles about real women drivers”.

However, as Noel Turnbull, RMIT Adjunct Professor and expert in marketing, pointed out, many images do not actually refer to women driving a car; instead, they use the world “drive” as a synonym for “leadership”, referring to women “driving their field forward in business, technology science and more”.

“I think this ad is quite problematic,” Professor Turnbull told News Corp Australia.

“When you seek to confront stereotypes, there is always a risk that you reinforce them particularly when the visuals display things other than driving.”

Professor Turnbull said he doubted “the campaign was going to change anything”, and that it was simply taking advantage of a market not yet plundered: women and cars.

“They want to target women drives to buy Audis,” he said.

“There’s been an assumption in marketing for a long time that men chose cars — that assumption is wrong for two reasons: one, as more women become independent, they buy their owns cars; and two, in families, very few people buy cars without first making a family decision, which includes women,” Professor Turnbull said.

He said it was a case of corporate and social responsibility “translating into sales”.
“This is problematic in terms of its effectiveness, and about whether it reinforces or dispels the stereotype,” he said.

University of Melbourne cultural studies expert, Dr Lauren Rosewarne, was similarity sceptical.

“It’s a somewhat complicated, bait-and-switch campaign,” she told News Corp Australia.

“Audiences are lured in through the device of mocking female drivers, and only once links are clicked, are they then provided with a better news story.

“The campaign is reliant on follow-through — on audiences actually clicking through to the “real” story — and I think this is where the danger lies; that the campaign will get attention primarily for recirculating problematic images of women as opposed to the more positive tail-end.”

Dr Rosewarne said that in some cases, “circulating good news stories to counter bad ones is a positive thing”.

“In the Audi campaign however, the bad news stories are the ones at the forefront — are the ones that are actually getting the circulating and attention — and the good news story online comes if audiences both clicking on an advertisement: something much less likely to happen.”

But the campaign appears to have been well-received by social media audiences, with Twitter users responding enthusiastically to the hashtag.