Last year, Ultra Tune ran a marketing campaign entitled ‘Unexpected Situations’ featuring convicted domestic violence perpetrator Charlie Sheen (essentially paid to play himself, because God knows the world needs more of that).
In the ad, a group of young women dubbed the ‘Rubber Girlz’ are shown to be driving together in a hot pink convertible, sucking lollipops and carrying out an inane conversation in which one of them comments on the size of the boats in front of them: “They’re so big”– queue more gratuitous lollipop sucking.
When the driver realises the brakes have inexplicably failed, the group ploughs straight into the harbour where saviour Sheen is lounging on his yacht seemingly waiting for such an incident to occur.
He welcomes the dripping women onto the deck, ogling them from behind before remarking: “And, I’m all out of towels… winning.”
Now, you might think that the ad I’ve just described would never pass the rigorous ad standards we have in this country, but I’ve got news.
Not only did it pass the original review, but a subsequent review triggered by a barrage of viewer complaints has just found that the ad was not in breach of code of conduct rules and “women were not depicted as objects or commodities”.
“Women’s bodies are not the focus of the advertisement… the clothing worn by the women is consistent with beach attire and is not overly sexualised and there is no close-ups or lingering on the women’s bodies,” Ad Standards today ruled.
In response to Sheen’s criminal history, it added: “advertisers are free to use whoever they wish in advertisements” and “his history was not mentioned in the advertisement and not all viewers would be aware of who he was”.
The regulator also found that women weren’t portrayed as “stupid or unable to drive” because they had an accident “as a result of circumstances outside of their control”.
The decision beggars belief, but no doubt rightfully angry consumers won’t take it lying down. Hoards of people have already vowed to boycott the brand in protest.
I now literally turn the TV off when the ultratune ad comes on. It is so gross.
— Joanna Farmer (@JoannaFarmer) January 27, 2019
got an email from ultratune about their ad and part of their justification for it being ok was sky news said it was. emailed them back saying both using Charlie Sheen and sky news means I won’t use them ever again
— TheTechiePilot (@TheTechiePilot) January 27, 2019
Not sure if I am less likely to vote for Clive, get ultra-tune to service my car or order Ubereats after the #ausopen adverts this past fortnight
— Greg Jericho (@GrogsGamut) January 27, 2019
#ultratonedeaf – Do not get your car serviced at Ultra Tune!! The past 3 faces of their company have been men accused of beating and rapeing women!!
— Bridget (@BridgetACU) January 25, 2019
It’s not the first time Ultra Tune has found itself in the hot seat. Last year an ad featuring actor Jean-Claude Van Damme was taken off air when it was found to make light of violence and intimidation of women.
At a time when a lot of big brands are doing all they can to promote equality and inclusion (we’re looking at you, Gillette) it’s infuriating to see others like Ultra Tune set resolutely in the Jurassic era and propped up by the advertising watchdog.