Does TV Degrade Female Officers?

You may have seen a recent Canadian television advertisement for the Kia Spectra. The ad features a man and a woman making out in the front seat of the car that is parked on the side of a highway. They are suddenly interrupted by the crackle of a police radio, and it appears they have been stopped by the police. Not so. The next image shows a beautiful blonde female cop exiting the passenger side of the vehicle, tossing back her long blonde hair and then tucking it underneath a police forage cap while returning to the police cruiser parked behind the Spectra. The cameras then pans to the driver's side of the Spectra, where the stunned and surprised driver has a huge smile on his face. The ad then states, "Life is better in a Spectra."

I understand that marketing agents like to use a little bit of humor in their strategies to get people to recognize and remember their advertisements and hopefully discuss them with their friends: "Did ya see the advertisement with the stupid blonde female cop?" This is their business and this is what they do. But the Kia Spectra ad is neither humorous nor entertaining, and is bordering on the offensive for many people, especially those in the police profession. We all know that female officers do not do these things. But the message Kia is sending to the public is the exact opposite. I can imagine the next time a female officer stops a guy in a Kia Spectra that there is going to be some kind of comment made. The damage such an ad does to the image and perceptions of female police officers and all police officers is horrible. It casts doubt on the integrity and professionalism of police officers and makes a mockery of our police profession.

When this was first aired, one of the senior female officers in the Saskatoon Police Service got a call from a retired male member in his 70s. He was outraged on behalf of the female officers wuth whom he had worked throughout his career. He wanted her to know that this was unacceptable and encouraged her to contact Kia about it. This ad was clearly affecting more than just female cops; it was affecting all of us. This female officer contacted Kia via e-mail and within hours received a number of e-mails back to the effect that her concerns would be addressed. When asked if they would terminate the advertisement, Kia indicated they could not promise her concerns would result in the termination of the ad and that despite the complaints, the ad may still run. Apparently most advertisements get some complaints, and this is normal course for them; until now. An article in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix dated January 16, 2007 stated that the Quebec Provincial Police Association and the Montréal Police Brotherhood both contacted Kia Canada, asking them to remove the advertisement. "The ad is degrading," said Jean-Guy Dagenais, spokesperson for the Association of Quebec Provincial Police. And so the ball starts rolling; International Association of Women Police (IAWP) regional representative Shelley Ballard has contacted the Saskatchewan Federation of Police, (SaskFed) the Saskatoon City Police Association (SCPA) and the Canadian Professional Police Association (CPPA) to gain support in getting this ad off of the air. Hundreds of policewomen across the country are starting to make their opinions known. On January 26, the RCMP National Executive Committee Staff Relations Representative, Ken Legge, wrote a letter to Kia on behalf of 18,000 RCMP members, stating "Whether intentional or not, your commercial is offensive to all police officers but for female police officers, it is degrading. In fact we suspect that this commercial is offensive to all women, regardless of the profession in which they happen to work."

The Canadian Professional Police Association, which represents 170 police services and over 54,700 peace officers in Canada, wrote a similar letter to Kia expressing their opinion about the ad. One officer from Saskatchewan also indicated, "Our image, and who and what we fight for every single day, and sometimes die for, are NOT FOR SALE."

Kia officials indicated in their e-mail that their intent was not to offend and claimed that since entering the Canadian automotive market in 1999, KIA Canada has used humor to reach Canadian consumers. Their aim was to find new and interesting methods of advertising and their intentions were not meant to cause the reaction felt when viewing the advertisement. When the Hamilton Spectator contacted the Toronto ad firm Publicis Canada about the ad, their vice-president brand director Tony Ciccia indicated that it is "loving--LOVING--the controversy its cop spot has generated." He added that the ad "is getting coverage on the mainstream media as well all over the internet. The fact that the commercial is now shown only after 9 PM in response to complaints about its raunchy content just adds to the intrigue," the Hamilton Spectator quotes. Tony Ciccia actually thinks people are talking about Kia in a positive way. Well that's not what 54,700 CPPA members and 18,000 RCMP members are saying.

One male Saskatchewan officer wrote Kia and said, "How would you like the police service to do a commercial profiling a Kia in a negative manner?" He wanted KIA to "think about the image and reception female officers will receive now as they carry on their duties, protecting not only Kia executives, employees and customers, but the public in general." But it appears that Kia's marketing company is enjoying the controversy and the additional advertising that they get along with it. Let's hope that Kia Canada has better morals and ethics than that.

If you want to make your opinions known to Kia Canada about the ad contact Valerie Proulx at consumer@kia.ca

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