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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 12:45 GMT
Should sex sell the motor show?
Using a woman in her bra to advertise a motor show is pathetic, sexist, old-fashioned rubbish says Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt.
Posters for the Birmingham-based fair show a woman in her underwear with the caption "The other way to your man's heart is down the M6 and off at Junction 4."
Ms Hewitt describes herself as a champion of the the car industry and is due to visit the show on Monday but sees the adverts as a "big mistake".
Nearly half of new cars are sold to women and the industry desperately needs women engineers and these images are like something from the 1950s, Ms Hewitt said.
"We all know that sex sells but haven't we got past 'boys with toys'?" she added.
Do you think the pictures reinforce old cliches? Does it imply to you that cars are only for men? Do images like this put women off working in the motor industry or should we accept that sex will always sell? Tell us what you think of the advertising campaign.
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
What's all the fuss about. The model got paid to make the advert, the percentage of the population who enjoyed looking at it is probably greater than those who do not. Finally, due to Patricia Hewitt's comments there was a lot of free advertising for the show. I am both a mother and have a successful career and see no harm in these types of adverts, in fact it could be considered that these adverts play on men's weakness.
Get a life - it's an advert and it works! Effective advertising it targets an audience - plain and simple! Same as the advert of four naked black men for the new television series.
Whoever thinks up these ads should remember that gay people buy cars, too.
Why not? It's used to sell everything else and saves an advertiser having to put much thought into his advert! Perhaps Ms Hewitt should concentrate on dealing with more important things like price rigging in the industry, if using sex to sell cars is so offensive, how come it increases sales?
Men are ridiculed in many UK adverts without complaint. It seems ludicrous therefore that women feel they deserve special treatment over this relatively minor issue.
I think the issue here is not one of sexism, but rather of the ideals the ad presents about the physical appearance of people. Society should not be focused on perfection of the outside, but the beauty of the inside.
Frankly, I think all the furore is just a storm in a C-cup! Get a life!
Patricia Hewitt et al make the sexist (not to say homophobic) assumption that a picture of a woman appeals only to men. Just look at the ads and cover pages of any women's magazines to see that she is wrong.
Why does it always seem to be ugly women who complain about the use of beautiful girls in advertising?
Of course it is sexist but why the sudden outcry? Scantily clad women are used to sell virtually everything else.
To deny car companies the right to use sex in advertisements is to impose barriers to freedom of speech. Provided the adverts don't violate community standards of decency and legality, there's no reason why one person's opinion should matter more than another's.
In Japan I have never seen an advert like that and more adverts are related to family or masculinity. I just envy the situation in Britain. Adverts should vary so female beauty, of course, can be used for it.
Katie/David, Wales, UK
It certainly wouldn't put me off working in the motor industry - even I'm not so childish as to react like that. I agree it seems old-fashioned to me, but evidently it's designed to appeal to an old-fashioned audience. It should be judged purely on whether it succeeds in attracting people.
As for Mrs. Hulme's comments above, the answer is simple: let the small boy go to the show. There is nothing wrong with half-naked women, the human body is a perfectly natural thing.
This advert is offensive to men by suggesting that we are all slaves to our love of women and fast cars, I demand that our Men's minister speaks out about this- oh, wait a minute, there's no men's minister, because everything is great for men these days! Silly me.
I think that Patricia hewitt is right, unfortunately her argument is a subtle one about old and inappropriate stereo types that the tabloid press , not surprisingly want to whip up as an anti PC storm in a tea cup.
The advert is plainly designed to create precisely this reaction. If it were the first to do so it would be imaginative, but it can't even claim that distinction.
Women continue to be objectified in the advertising world. It wouldn't be so much of a concern if more men could get over their teenage years and progress further than the male concept that women are here for our amusement.
I was at the motor show on Sunday and most of the people visiting were male. It may be true that 40% of cars bought are bought by women but advertising is geared to men because men like looking at cars at motor shows, women don't. You won't get the NEC full of women looking at cars. Get over it and stop acting like a prude!
A fast car with an attractive person in it is a very nice fantasy. It brightens life up a bit - and we sure need to get away from the drab. No need to feel threatened if the person in the car is the same sex as you, it's not reality, it's just an aspiration.
No problem! Shows the power women have over men. And brings a moment's pleasure in an increasingly pleasureless world. Puts them in the driving seat if you ask me!
Sam B, UK
I think the ad is amusing and sexy. Viewed in a modern context by a successful young woman (I'm 26), I don't find it patronising or sexist, particularly given the knowing smile on the model's face. If anyone's being demeaned I see it more as the men than the woman in the ad (because it suggests all men are predictable and esily led!)
To "Fur", UK:
Yup, you've got it !
They are !
I'd like to have seen Patricia Hewitt as the poster girl - that would have got me there! Brmm Brmm!
The river flows both ways, watch some adverts and you will see men emasculated, humiliated and made to look stupid and or incompetent.
If women are considered an aid in selling cars why are there not more of them employed in car showrooms? Seems like jobs for the boys!
Sex sells, Patricia. It's a powerful human instinct that's responsible for producing you and the rest of us. It's not such a bad thing really. Cars come a close second for many men and I guess not for women.
I was hoping that the days had passed when women were seen first and foremost as sexual objects. I wonder how many of the contributors to this debate would welcome pictures of their wives, sisters and daughters to be used in this way!
I don't hear Ms Hewitt complaining too strongly about a half-naked Thierry Henry's purring French accent in a recent car ad. And where is Labour's Minister for Men to highlight the shameless exploitation of men in that female-targeted Renault advert?
Nick Toye, UK
I think we have become so desensitised to nudity and sex to sell just about everything, it passes most of us by. I like the way Patricia Hewitt has spoken about this because we should not be blindly carrying on with such repetitive advertising imagery. The fact that a woman designed the advert says a lot about female attitudes towards this matter within the design industry. It's actually OK to use the female form to grab male (and female) attention, just as long as it does not undermine the female intellect. Be a bit more original next time though please.
I bet if the advert was poking fun at men no-one would have batted an eyelid. In Sheffield town centre any bra or lingerie billboard is daubed in black paint within hours of going up, yet next to one of these protests is a huge advert for the new BBC2 drama Babyfather showing four naked men which has remained untouched! Dual standards?
Laura M, England
No, sex has nothing to do with cars. They should be kept separate. How do you explain to a small boy that he can't go to the motor show to look at the cars with his daddy because there are semi-naked women there?
The actual point Hewitt was making was a good one: The country needs engineers, generally there are not enough qualified engineers graduating from our universities and there are intelligent women out there that are put off from becoming engineers by this sort of advert. Anyone who disagrees with that is living in a different decade.
Works for me!
Isn't there more to men than sex? It gets a little tired after a while...
Gus Swan, UK
Why should I have to look at pictures of half naked women when I read articles about cars, photography or hifi's? Why cant I look at pictures of half naked men? Surely the press and advertising arent that out of touch they believe only men are interested in such subjects.
The same criticism can be made with beer industry: why in beer ads the men are only targeted? It is not only men who drink in this country...
There are a plethora of sexist advertisements demeaning men nowadays in the media which we men take with good humour - if anything it is Ms Hewitt's response that is dated.
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