An Air New Zealand online marketing campaign that mocks the desperation of older women (or "cougars") who supposedly prowl bars looking for younger men to bed has been criticised as being sexist and "lame".
An email to subscribers of the airline's Grabaseat discount airfare site directs them to a fake documentary clip on YouTube about the mating habits of the "cougar", complete with a Discovery Channel-style voice-over.
Behind images of a desperate-looking 30-something woman hitting on a man in his 20s, the deep-voiced narrator says bars in Auckland's Viaduct are overrun with women in their 30s, 40s and 50s preying on younger men in a quest for sex. The men, mainly in their 20s, may even "pretend to be gay" to avoid the women, but are "dragged off to their inner-city apartments and cruelly made to listen to Enya or the Eurythmics".
It says the behaviour of cougars has had a "devastating effect" on young male "herds" so authorities have introduced P addicts to control cougar numbers. They latch on to the cougar's bank account so she doesn't have money for shoes or gold jewellery, which she relies on to catch her prey.
The spoof documentary is promoting the airline's offer to give 60 tickets away to next month's Wellington Sevens rugby tournament. "Cougar" women, aged 35-plus, are invited to email photos of themselves out on the town with their cougar mates. Meanwhile, a simultaneous promotion run by radio station ZM is selecting 10 young men who will also attend the match, as "meat" for the cougars.
Victoria University associate professor Delores Janiewski – an expert on gender, culture and media – said the ad was "funny and cheeky" but it was hard to tell whether the ad was encouraging or denigrating single women.
However, Auckland comedian and poet Penny Ashton said the ad was sexist, and painting women as predators and men as their feeble prey "incensed" her.
"Men are not helpless. Surely if you say no a couple of times it should work?"
Social commentator and Sunday Star-Times columnist Rosemary McLeod said the ad was lame.
"I think older women should think very carefully before tackling young men in gay bars, as disappointment is bound to follow."
A Grabaseat spokesperson said the promotion was not intended to be offensive. It would not be shown on TV.
- Sunday Star Times