Air Asia had to remove ads after accusations that they were promoting sex tourism in Thailand

Mid-February, cheeky ads with the double-entendre “Get off in Thailand”,  shilling new direct flights from Brisbane to Bangkok on the Malaysian low-cost airline Air Asia. 

The campaign didn’t quite take off, rather crashed spectacularly as soon as activists fighting against the objectification of women spotted them. The anti-objectification movement Collective Shout rallied their activists with a photo on Twitter.

 

In that Twitter thread, Melina Liszewski also criticised Air Asia for earlier marketing campaigns that objectified women and questioned how the Thailand ads had been approved by the city of Brisbane.

 jamaica ad bill bernbach
In 1972, Bill Bernbach sold Jamaica as a travel destination by showing its exotic flair - this wet t-shirt image was quite suggestive and is now widely regarded as the most famous travel ad in the world.

It wouldn't be the first time that a holiday destination or airline sold their brand with the help of beautiful women, either at the destination or as the stewardesses in hotpants who take you there. 
 

Clearly, the times are a-changing, and the protests from people on Twitter soon made Air Asia reconsidered the cheeky headline. While the campaign was already nearing the end of its run, they made an effort to remove it early. Air Asia said in a statement: 

“We take community feedback extremely seriously and sincerely apologise for the concerns raised.” 

Collective Shout's director Coralie Alison stated that they wanted an apology from Brisbane airport; 

We believed this ad was a direct invitation to sex tourists. This isn't the first time they have used sexualised advertising so there is a pattern that needs to stop.

This type of advertising shapes our culture and impacts the way society views these topics. Using the bodies of women and children for sexual services should never be the punchline.

Collective Shout would like to see Air Asia follow up on their apology with action. We repeatedly hear companies apologise, only to repeat the same behaviour. We question why we keep having to campaign against these things in the first place. Sexualisation, objectification and violence against women are normalised and perpetuated by ads like these. Sexualised advertising has become the wallpaper of society.

And if anyone wonders what happened to the beautiful woman from the iconic Jamaica ad, her name is Sintra Bronte and she still turns heads today. In fact, she got that modelling job thanks to turning the heads of the DDB creative team as she walked past them in a hotel: 

“That’s a long story. I’ll make it short. Having moved across to Jamaica with my then-husband who was transferred from Port-of-Spain to Jamaica, it is the story of being at the Pegasus Hotel at the right time and the right place. The Jamaican tourism board had their advertising, public relations and marketing people there from New York –  Doyle Dane Bernbach and Associates – they were at the same hotel. I was dressed in a beautiful evening dress, and I still have that dress in my wardrobe today. They saw me and they saw the neckline and they were overwhelmed. And they went to the Jamaican tourism board and requested; can this person do the ad for them. And this…this is how it all started for me.”

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