Toyota faces slippery slope after skiing ads accused of discriminating against mums

Article by Dominic Powell /
Smart Company /
July 12, 2016 /
Click here to view original /

Toyota has taken down a number of its advertisements at Thredbo ski resort in New South Wales, after the company received complaints and accusations that the ads show women as inferior skiers to men.

The advertisements are for Toyota’s Kluger brand automotive, and displays the three different markers for ski run difficulty – green, blue, and black. Alongside the green marker (indicating the easiest level of run) the ad says ‘Kids’, followed by ‘Mum’ alongside the blue, and finally ‘Dad’ alongside the black, one of the hardest levels of ski runs.

The ad also shows a cup of hot chocolate, with the word ‘Everyone’ next to it. But Toyota was the one in hot water after reported on the offensive ad, having interviewed single skiing mum Romy Krassenstein who complained about the advertisement.

“There is only me. There is no Dad. I’m out there doing double black runs,” Krassenstein said.

“It’s just like come on, be more creative. Did Toyota really spend $100,000 on that campaign to offend women? Like seriously, haven’t we moved past this?”

Krassenstein took to Instagram to criticise the advertisement, saying: “In 2016 who on earth advertises such sexist shit really?”
Others took to Twitter to criticise Toyota’s advertisement, with one complainant stating: “Seriously @Toyota_Aus? What a joke! Women ski blacks and we’re damn good at it, too!”

The Advertising Standards Board recently revealed it’s most complained about advertisements of 2016, of which 30% depicted women in discriminatory, vilified, exploitative and degrading ways.

Two of these we’re UltraTune’s advertisements featuring two leather-clad women, who are repeatedly sexualised and portrayed as bad drivers.

In a statement provided to SmartCompany, a Toyota spokesperson said “the campaign was not intended to cause any offence – we simply wanted to highlight that Thredbo, much like the Kluger, has something for everyone”.

“The campaign was launched at last year’s ski season and was due to be replaced this year – there has been a delay in changing the materials due to weather conditions,” the spokesperson said.

“We have printed the new marketing material and expect that it will be displayed at Thredbo within the next two weeks.”

Lauren Rosewarne, a senior Lecturer at Melbourne University and advertising expert, told SmartCompany this is a “timely reminder of the desperate need for car companies to do better with their marketing”.

“With women not only purchasing cars themselves but having a crucial role in car purchases for their family, it’s mind-boggling that a company can mock them on one hand but then expect them to think fondly of the company the next time they’re about to buy a car,” Rosewarne says.

Rosewarne also says this issue is a prime example of companies that “don’t quite understand the power of social media”.

“Putting up an ad in Thredbo is going to be seen around Australia and around the world within the day if it’s hideous enough,” she says.

“The audience for offensive advertising can never be contained.”

Finally, Rosewarne says Toyota’s oversight is a lesson for all companies and businesses in appropriate advertising, and being conscious of your consumer’s skills.

“This is a lesson to never bite the hand that feeds you, and certainly never insult the skiing abilities of your customers.”