Cardiff bus company pulls topless ‘ride me’ adverts after public outcry

Tuesday 12th May 2015

A bus company in Cardiff has created outrage in the city and on social media after it launched a fleet of new buses with a poster on the back of its vehicles showing an apparently topless woman holding a sign saying “ride me all day for £3”.

The campaign had only been live for a couple of hours on Monday when the company said the adverts would be withdrawn. The posters featured both female and male models, however the female versions attracted particular criticism on social media.

So, what was the problem?

Hana Johnson who helps run the local blog ‘We are Cardiff’ saw the bus on her morning commute and said “…I felt like we had an obligation to the women and men of Cardiff to call this company out on the commodification of a woman’s body. I guess you could use the ‘it’s just a laugh’ argument, but in 2015 does a bus journey really need to be sexualised to market itself?”

Twitter users classified the campaign as sexist towards women with the site @EverydaySexism tweeting, “ …aren’t half of your customers women? Have you thought this through?#EverydaySexism”

The bus company was apologetic on Monday and said, “Firstly we have stated that our objectives have been to make catching the bus attractive to the younger generation. We therefore developed an internal advertising campaign featuring males and females to hold boards to promote the cost of our daily tickets.

“The slogan of ‘ride me all day for £3’ whilst being a little tongue in cheek was in no way intended to cause offence to either men or women and, if the advert has done so then we apologise unreservedly. There has certainly been no intention to objectify either men or women.

“Given the volume of negativity received we have decided to remove the pictures from the back of the buses within the next 24 hours.”

Sophie Wilson, Employment Legal Assistant and member of the transport team, at Gordons, says “Marketing and social media are extremely powerful in the business world. They can generate widespread awareness of a business’ services or products, which in turn can lead to more custom and profit. Some might say that this bus company’s marketing campaign backfired on them, and the criticism it attracted through social media caused it harm. However, what it has actually done is create more awareness of the campaign. It has got people talking and discussing the adverts and the price of the tickets – fantastic for the business!

The adverts are certainly eye catching and memorable, and I would say that not only does it appeal to the younger generation as the bus company intended, but it will probably also appeal to wider demographics. It is interesting that the people who have criticised the images of the women models as being a commodification of a woman’s body, have not done the same for the male models.”

Click here to view the Guardian’s article.