Life as an Extreme Sport

A is for Audi, Advertising Assault

I was traveling last night, which means over lunch today I’m doing the typical “watch all the Super Bowl commercials I missed” thing, and I of course sought out the popular ones first. One of the commercials I saw being referred to in tweets over the course of the night was the “sweet” Audi commercial, about a boy going to prom alone and kissing the prom queen anyhow. Okay, a sort of John Hughes premise to the whole commercial – I figured it would be some sort of kitschy montage of friendship, shyness, etc, ending in a sweet prom moment.

Instead, I got what reads as assault:

I’d certainly be interested in hearing how other people are reading this – I suppose it’s possible that in hanging around feminist communities, weird things have happened to my brain. But this commercial reads as a stranger – the solitary “geeky” young man – walking up to a woman he doesn’t know but longs for and sexually assaulting her. His punishment for this isn’t the prom queen shoving him off, but instead the prom king punching him – which certainly reads as “man defending property” rather than “hey asshole, don’t randomly kiss women without their permission.”

More than that, though, this Audi commercial – aside from the blatant assault – perpetuates this notion that the “nice” geek guy can “get the prom queen,” because her reaction is one of dreamy contentment at being grabbed and kissed without warning by someone she apparently doesn’t know, rather than horror, shock, or repulsion.I’m tempted to go all lit crit on the symbolism behind the outfits being worn by the geek guy and prom king, as well. Instead, the “nice guy” gets what he wants – the girl, who, again, is treated as property through the entire commercial – by being “brave,” thus also reinforcing the Nice Guy trope that girls only dig “bad boys.” You know, like the bad boy who’d grab a girl and kiss her without permission (implicitly or explicitly given).

Shame on Audi for conflating bravery with sexual assault, and then attempting to use it to sell cars.


  1. The symbolism of the articles of clothing is pretty bare. The “rebel” in the commercial wears black, while the prom king wears white. The girl is treated as property.

    Really, this commercial is just an extension of the last 60 years of advertising by and toward males: Buy this product and you’ll stand out/have more self confidence/have more sex appeal/achieve more in life/acquire the things you want with more authority. The prom queen just happens to be a thing that driving an Audi gives you the courage to conquer on your own terms. She is, as you assert, property.

    It’s just a high class Axe Body Spray commercial, more or less.

    Still, you’re better off than those of us with the Canadian feed. The best commercial of our night was about depression.

  2. Interesting that you were seeing “sweet” commentary. The reaction in our household was “oh, so guys who drive Audis commit assault” (likely not the kind of association with the brand they were looking for) and my Twitter feed was loaded with similar remarks. General morning-after reaction I’ve found is that this was the worst ad in terms of sexism, because it didn’t just objectify and belittle but outright advocated ignoring boundaries. Of course, I don’t read conservative websites, which apparently not only find it appropriate but are defending it out of the sheer stupid principle of annoying feminists. Maybe I’m just way too feminist as well.

  3. I think context matters. This is less an overt expression of misogyny/sexism than misogyny and/or objectification as a by-product or benefit of investing in the brand.

    This ad doesn’t express the attitude of inferiority or women, it asserts the necessary confidence required to get what one wants, regardless of what it is one wants with the assistance of the product. It’s textbook advertising toward males. It would probably be considered ironic or funny if the very next ad had the gender roles reversed.

    Let’s call this what it is, objectification which, in this case, just happens to be the objectification of a woman. Objectification of the human or animal form is in and of itself the core problem here, something that it’s important not to lose sight of.

  4. @cromartie is spot on about terrible Canadian commercials.

    But about the objectification of this commercial, it would be nearly impossible to tell a socially palatable story in 60 seconds.

    If Audi wanted to accomplish that it would require telling the START of a story with the commercial, then have the rest of the story be told in a video on Audi’s website.

    But it would be one hell of a challenge to get a bunch of old, white, men to shake the mothballs out of their dusty suits long enough to try something new.

  5. @MikeH Let’s assume that the ad buy worked this way: The first commercial is the one shown above. The second commercial features the girl going after the Prom King, leaving the prom in the same state.

    Is that acceptable? Do two wrongs make a right?

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