German automotive brand Audi has apologised for its recent ad on Twitter featuring its Audi RS 4 Avant, with young child leaning on its car with a banana in hand. It is accompanied with the caption "Lets your heart beat faster - in every aspect". However the ad didn't sit well with some netizens who took to the comments section to voice their unhappiness and disgust at the ad, which some thought contained sexual innuendo. One netizen commented in German that the ad showed a little girl with a phallic symbol in her hand. Another netizen commented that the ad is "digsuting and reprehensible", and is a "pedophile ad" that promotes child abuse.
Besides the potential sexual reference, another netizen also commented about the size difference between the car and the child. "Nice that you show how children can easily be killed by your cars. You can't even see them out of the car," the netizen said.
In a three-part Twitter post, Audi said it sincerely apologises for the "insensitive" image and ensured that it will not be used in the future. It added that it will immediately investigate how the campaign has been created and if "control mechanisms" has failed in this case.
The automotive brand also clarified that the ad was supposed to convey the message that even the "weakest traffic participants" (which in this case refers to the child) can relaxingly lean on the technology the RS car series utilises. Audi further clarified that the Audi RS 4 that was advertised is a family car with driver assistance and emergency break system, which was why the ad was showcased to families.
However, some netizens defended the brand saying that the ad is not insensitive, claiming that eating a banana does not necessarily mean it has a sexual reference. As one netizen said, it is ridiculous because the logic that others are employing is that everyone eating a banana is participating in a "perverse sexual display". On a similar point of view, another netizen said: "Anyone who sees a phallic symbol in the banana in the hand of a child should definitely see a psychiatrist."
In 2017, Audi copped flak for another ad it did in China, where it compared choosing a wife to choosing a car. The ad showed a mother who interrupted a wedding ceremony to inspect the bride, examining her in close details before giving her approval to the groom to proceed. According to South China Morning Post, Audi said it “deeply regrets” the ad, adding that the ad's perception that has been created for many people does not correspond to the values of the company in any way.
Earlier in May, Volkswagen was also called out for an ad that was deemed as "racist" and "distasteful". Volkwagen's board member for sales and marketing Juergen Stackmann and head of diversity management Elke Heitmueller issued an apology on LinkedIn and Twitter. According to multiple media reports including BBC and Reuters, the ad reportedly featured a large pair of white hands "push and then flick" a black man away from the yellow Golf into a cafe known as "Petit Colon", which also translates from French to German as "Little Colonist". The audio in the background also contained "a woman's laughter, upbeat music, and comedic sound effects," BBC added.
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