Air NZ 'sexualised' video slammed

MICHAEL FOREMAN
Last updated 17:06 07/02/2014
Air New Zealand

The behind the scenes video of Air New Zealand's new safety video with Sports Illustrated swimsuit models in the Cook Islands.

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Air New Zealand's new "highly sexualised" safety video featuring bikini-clad models from Sport Illustrated magazine has been criticised for objectifying women.

Air New Zealand says it has produced the "the world's most beautiful safety video", dubbed "Safety in Paradise".

The video is the latest in a string of safety dramatisations to feature on the national carrier's aircraft and will be rolled out gradually on all routes from February 12, the 50th anniversary of the Florida-based magazine's swimsuit edition.

But Massey University lecturer and feminist commentator Deborah Russell, who today viewed a preview about the making of the video, said she objected to the use of "highly sexualised" images in a safety video.

"My concern is that as a woman I get on a plane to go to a business meeting say - something serious - and I am confronted by women in bikinis in what are highly sexualised images," Russell said.

"That jars. I want to be taken seriously but it seems that suddenly they are saying that my sexuality is all that matters about me."

Russell said she had enjoyed Air New Zealand's quirky safety videos in the past.

"But I don't want to watch this one," she said.

Air NZ head of global brand development Jodi Williams said that working with Sports Illustrated was "a phenomenal opportunity to further lift the airline's brand on the global stage".

The airline said it expected the video would engage customers in core safety messages and drive passenger traffic on its Auckland-Rarotonga and Los Angeles-Rarotonga services.

"This is 'money can't buy' global attention focused on a key destination and our airline," Williams said.

Christie Brinkley, a model who has appeared on three consecutive Sports Illustrated Swimsuit covers, said she was grateful to be making a guest appearance in the video.

"I loved the playful script that contains a lot of unexpected moments for a safety video," Brinkley said.

"It features so many Sports Illustrated beauties celebrating the 50th anniversary of the swimsuit edition, that it may even have folks on the ground reaching for their oxygen masks."

Rod Brodie, head of marketing at the University of Auckland Business School, said he thought it was unlikely Air NZ would suffer a backlash from female passengers as a result of the video.

"People don't boycott airlines over their safety videos," he said.

Brodie said the video was consistent with the marketing strategy the airline had previously used in its safety videos.

An earlier Air NZ safety video featuring US comedian Betty White had clocked up 2.5 million views on YouTube and another featuring rapper Snoop Dog had attracted more than 500,000 views, Brodie said.

"They have always been edgy, part of their positioning has been to push the limits," he said.

Air New Zealand spokesperson Andrew Aitken said the airline was not concerned about a potential backlash from passengers over the portrayal of women in the video.

"Not at all. We have been careful to ensure Safety in Paradise has been produced in a way that is tasteful," Aitken said.

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"Naturally, given this safety video celebrates 50 years of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, it made sense to feature some of the magazine's most well-known models."

Air New Zealand said extensive tests with a cross section of customers and staff has been done in a bid to ensure the video struck the right balance between entertainment and its important safety messages.

Given it was shot in a beach setting, it was "entirely appropriate they're wearing beachwear and we were careful to ensure all talent were in appropriate wardrobe choices".

- Fairfax Media

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