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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.”

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