200,000 of these promotional postcards were recently distributed by Data Cars, a London minicab company. (The back of the card has contact and app information).
They sparked an immediate backlash, according to The Drum and the Daily Mail, with angry comments left on the Data Cars Twitter feed and several complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority and Transport for London.
Some commenters pointed out that shadowing on the woman’s arms resembled bruising, and that it could be construed that she had just suffered a rape.
Katie Russell from the charity, Rape Crisis, called the postcard:
“…a really unfortunate and misguided piece of advertising. The best case scenario, giving the company the benefit of the doubt, is that they’re not aware of the associations that the image on this postcard conjures. The worst case scenario is that they’ve knowingly used scare-mongering, sexist and victim-blaming imagery and messaging in a cynical marketing ploy.”
Data Cars manager Les Chapman defended it:
“The way we viewed the image, it is simply a girl who has gone out on a hot summer evening and the predicable British weather has opened the heavens and she got soaking wet. “This is something we see every year and this year we decided to place an advertising campaign with this in mind.”
There is a precedent here that may be on critics’ minds.
Below is a poster ad from 2010 via the London Mayor’s Office that twisted a sexually-assaulted woman’s cry for help into a snappy headline for London’s Cabwise campaign.