AAMI Bali massage ad is not racist, rules watchdog

An ad for AAMI that shows the brand heroine Rhonda receiving a foot massage from a Balinese masseuse has been cleared by the advertising watchdog after complaints that the ad is racist.

Complaints claimed that the ad, created by Ogilvy, is “extremely racist” and “perpetrates negative stereotypes about Asian women”.

One read: “The woman receiving the massage is white. The one giving it is dark-skinned with a thick accent – very much a ‘happy ethnic’ stereotype. At the end of the ad we see a group of dark skinned women clamouring to touch the white woman’s feet.”

Another complainant said: “AAMI’s underlying assumption [is] that a poor Asian woman would be happy to – and indeed, enjoy – the opportunity to pamper a successful white woman. The ad reeks of cultural and economic imperialism.”

AAMI responded by saying: “The advertisement does not depict the masseuse in a negative light. Rather, the masseuse is seen to be enjoying her job, is happy and friendly and the image is not a negative stereotype.”

“The conclusion of the advertisement, which shows a group of masseuse all wanting to be Rhonda’s masseuse, was simply a way to demonstrate in an exaggerated and humorous way that Rhonda is special and somewhat of a VIP because of her status as a Safe driver and her good ‘brake foot’. There was absolutely no intention to suggest the masseuse shown would be fighting for the opportunity to massage Rhonda’s foot simply because Rhonda is a white woman but rather because of her status as a ‘good driver’.”

The Advertising Standards Bureau ruled: “The Balinese women in the advertisement are portrayed in a positive manner and considered that the use of a Balinese woman massaging Rhonda’s feet is not something which most members of the community would consider racist.”


  1. Sam
    29 Apr 12
    8:13 pm

  2. give me a break.. have seen this ad a dozen times on tv.. never once did it come across as racist. some people just like to complain i guess.. get a life

  3. jb
    29 Apr 12
    8:13 pm

  4. but… that is bali

  5. Michael
    29 Apr 12
    11:18 pm

  6. I just got back from Bali, and received a massage just like that one… Political correctness gone mad

  7. haha-nielson
    30 Apr 12
    12:29 am

  8. “At the end of the ad we see a group of dark skinned women clamouring to touch the white woman’s feet.”
    Somehow the description sounds a bit racist while the ad itself is not.

  9. jason, WAKE UP
    30 Apr 12
    12:44 am

  10. Not a great ad, but not racist either. These people who complain just like to have a whinge. Same one who probably think they are struggling financially (“its Joooolia’s fault!”) while owning an iphone, ipad and a massive 55 inch TV.

    I love this ad and want to be Rhonda’s break foot!

  11. Bill Posters
    30 Apr 12
    8:52 am

  12. “have seen this ad a dozen times on tv.. never once did it come across as racist”

    Despite the fact that it’s one of the most racist things on TV since the Hey Hey blackface skit.

    It’s rulings like this that make the ad watchdog look out of touch.

  13. Kaner
    30 Apr 12
    9:47 am

  14. Why does she break with her right foot?

  15. Hoin
    30 Apr 12
    9:52 am

  16. The first time I saw this ad I thought it wouldn’t be long before I saw a story on Mumbrella detailing complaints about “racism”. I wasn’t wrong. Isn’t it ironic when the PC crowd on one hand complains that advertising features too many Anglos and is not culturally diverse enough yet when an agency uses Asian talent those same people squawk “racist”.

  17. Adam
    30 Apr 12
    10:04 am

  18. I’m going to brake up with you for bad spelling…

  19. Groucho
    30 Apr 12
    10:18 am

  20. That anyone could complain about this as racist seems idiotic. The complainants are surely being racist themselves, even if they fail to realise it.

  21. kate
    30 Apr 12
    10:30 am

  22. The only misleading thing about this ad is that she is braking with the wrong foot!!

    It makes me laugh every time I see it – anyone who has been to Bali or Thailand would see the humor – well, actually, some people never see the humor.

  23. Sonny T.
    30 Apr 12
    10:36 am

  24. As an asian, I did not find this ad racist.

  25. Matt
    30 Apr 12
    10:40 am

  26. How is she braking with the wrong foot? She’s massaging her right foot, last time I checked clutch with the left and brake / accelerate with the right, that is unless you’re from the 1920’s and piloting your motor coach around town.

  27. Kat
    30 Apr 12
    11:54 am

  28. haha-nielson – you’re spot on!

  29. Julia
    30 Apr 12
    12:14 pm

  30. Silly maybe, but not racist.

  31. Andy
    30 Apr 12
    2:53 pm

  32. I’m worried about the people who’ve said Rhonda is using her wrong foot.. Do you brake with your left foot??

  33. Hello???
    30 Apr 12
    3:02 pm

  34. @ Kaner – do you break with your left foot? If so why and how did you pass your driving test!?!?

  35. John Grono
    30 Apr 12
    3:11 pm

  36. Hi Matt. But if you drive an automatic, it is much safer to brake with the left foot (even though it initially feels weird) as a car will travel around 20+m further in the time you transfer your right foot from the accelerator to the brake. But as you say – that was how you people were taught in the 1920s before automatics.

  37. Kaner
    30 Apr 12
    3:51 pm

  38. @hello I break for nobody

  39. Kris
    30 Apr 12
    4:05 pm

  40. I am shocked and appalled that there are drivers on the road who would brake with their left foot.

    30 Apr 12
    4:30 pm

  42. Just checked Jon my nephew is about to get his P ‘s .He is currently undergoing the mandatory instructor training.The right foot is for the brake ! However the vehicle travels a further 20 meters whilst you are texting and not looking at the car in front of you

  43. John Grono
    30 Apr 12
    4:59 pm

  44. Kris, fortunately I was taught left-foot braking (for an auto only) at both Safe Driving and Advanced driving courses with Ian Luff and Cam McConville – not by a driving school. I know which I think is the better classroom.

    So I am shocked that there are auto drivers out there who have NOT been taught this safer technique and that many people cling to an outdated 1920s shibboleth.

  45. Samuel
    30 Apr 12
    6:52 pm

  46. What do they expect in Bali?

    White women doing massages on the beach for pay? If it was Double Bay yes, Bali no.

    It’s a silly complaint.

  47. Beery
    3 May 12
    4:53 pm

  48. Well Kris, I am shocked and appalled there are drivers who do not understand the benefit of using the left foot (in an automatic vehicle). Just kidding, I’m not really (shocked and appalled), as there are so many incompetent drivers that reflects that driving tests are just that – designed to pass a test, not teach people how to drive. Like JohnGrono, I too appreciate the valueof left foot braking, for all the reasons stated. One final thing to end my rant – some of the world’s best rally drivers left foot brake regularly (ambidextrous really, or is that just with hands?), not a bad reflection on the merits of the technique?

  49. AndrewL
    3 May 12
    5:56 pm

  50. @Beery
    the left foot braking technique comes from Karting, as many drivers that left foot brake Glenn Seton, Cam McConville etc have Karting backgrounds. I personally fight foot brake, bit hard to do it with the left on a motorbike

  51. Anonymous
    8 May 12
    12:58 pm

  52. NO MY RHONDA!!

  53. Anonymous
    15 May 12
    2:02 pm

  54. Yeah, that’s right. Anyone who takes offensive to anything is just someone who ‘likes to have a whinge’. AAMI’s response is unacceptable. It does show the woman as happy. But that’s EXACTLY THE POINT OF COMPLAINT. She is so happy to serve the white woman, this is exactly the image of the obedient, ‘happy with my lot’ non-white who is so ‘honored’ to be close to greatness (the white person) that IS incredibly racist.

  55. AndrewL
    15 May 12
    2:47 pm

  56. @28 If she was white and happy to be massaging an Asian’s foot would that be Racist?
    get a grip, I’ve recently returned from travelling through Asia (I’m not white BTW) and there were plenty of people happy to serve me food, drink and massages and were extremely thankful of the over and above tips that myself and my travelling companions (who were white left). can’t see why depicting someone enjoying their job is racist

  57. oh-poo@deathoffreebies.com
    23 May 12
    7:52 am

  58. of course it’s racist – it’s called racial vilification

    go read a law book

  59. Linda D'Arsie
    26 May 12
    3:14 am

  60. A bunch of loosers with nothing better to do.

    I think this particular ad is the best I have seen since the yellow pages “not happy Jan!” ads.

    Merthi makes the ad and everytime I watch it I laugh as do my family and many of my friends – not sure if they are all laughing at the ad or at me enjoying the ad so much.

    I have watched behind the scenes with Merthi & Rhonda in Bali and love it love it love it.

    Well done AAMI