Women mobilise to get 'offensive' billboard pulled

SALLY KIDSON
Last updated 12:30 18/12/2010

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Air New Zealand has admitted it made a boo-boo, and will remove a Nelson billboard proclaiming "Fares lower than your grandma's boobs", after Nelson women sparked a campaign to get the "sexist" and "offensive" advertisement removed.

The billboard was advertising Air NZ's cheap seat website Grabaseat. The slogan was an entry in a competition, from a Wellington resident whose grandmother lives in Nelson.

"What this person thought was funny, as did many others, clearly didn't resonate with some individuals today, and Grabaseat will be removing the billboard shortly," Grabaseat manager Duane Perrott said. "We apologise if any offence was caused."

Nelson woman Jacquetta Bell, who helped to start the campaign against the website, said this morning she was pleased that the billboard was going to be pulled.

She was also pleased that women – many of whom were older – had mobilised on the issue and sent Air NZ such a strong message.

"The overwhelming message coming through [through email feedback] was that they wouldn't say the same thing for men; like `Fares as low as your granddad's willy'. They didn't think older women were important."

Air NZ was likely to have received hundreds of emails about the billboard, she said.

One email she had seen was from Nora Kelly, a grandmother in Alaska, who said the billboard was in bad taste and offensive.

Mrs Kelly said she flew to New Zealand every year, and was appalled by the billboard slogan. When she next flew to New Zealand in January, she intended asking the flight attendants what they thought of it.

"I cannot imagine any woman, in New Zealand or elsewhere, finding this amusing ... Did you ask anyone besides adolescent males whether this was funny?," she wrote.

Ms Bell said she first saw the billboard outside the Suter Art Gallery on Monday, and wrote to Grabaseat's brand manager, Russell Long, telling him the slogan was sexist and ageist and slated older woman.

Mr Long replied that the ad was supposed to be edgy and provocative, and while it might not appeal to everyone, it was not intended to be offensive.

Not satisfied with that reply, Ms Bell emailed Carrie Mozena at the Nelson Women's Centre, who sent the emails to her contacts yesterday, urging women to email Mr Long and send Air NZ a clear message.

"We feel strongly that this is appalling disrespect to woman of all ages, and appalling for our national airline to employ such sexist, ageist `humour', she said.

"Air NZ Grabaseat airfares are lower than their value system."

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- The Nelson Mail

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