Taxi firm under fire over 'sexist' advertising campaign
Campaigners claim image used by Bristol-based CityFox reinforces harmful gender stereotypes
The taxi firm defended its campaign but said it had now been withdrawn.
A taxi firm has been criticised over a “sexist” marketing campaign featuring an apparently overweight middle-aged woman and the slogan “If I start to look sexy book a taxi. Don’t make bad decisions because you’ve had one too many.”
The company behind the advert, Bristol-based CityFox, insisted it carried a serious message about getting home safely after drinking and said it would not apologise for using humour to make a point.
However, the campaign group Bristol Women’s Voice condemned the image, claiming it reinforced harmful gender stereotypes.
The group’s chair, Penny Gane, said: “We are appalled to see this advert being used by CityFox taxis. Images such as this are antiquated and reinforce harmful gender stereotypes and messages that women are to be judged by their physical appearance alone as well as being fat- and age-shaming.
“It is unacceptable for businesses to use derogatory and sexist images, especially when targeting younger audiences. This should be seen as an opportunity to present modern images that challenge harmful stereotypes and present a broad range of representations that young people can relate to.”
The campaign also featured an image of a man in a vest with a rose tattoo and a paunch leering at the camera with a beer in his hand with the same slogan.
CityFox Group defended its intentions but said the campaign had been withdrawn.
Sophie Palmer, the company’s marketing and communications manager, said: “As one of the west country’s biggest taxi providers, we see all too often the effects that excessive alcohol consumption can have on people’s safety and wellbeing, and the destructive consequences for society when this leads to antisocial behaviour.
“This campaign featured two posters – one depicting a male and one a female – in an attempt to encourage people to think about the need to be able to get home in a safe and orderly manner when they’ve had a few too many to drink.
“We make no apology for using humour and hard-hitting messages to highlight this issue – in order for people to think about the possible effects of their behaviour it is necessary to get their attention and get a reaction. The campaign has attracted many positive comments. However, it would never be our intention to cause embarrassment or offence, and as such we have withdrawn the campaign.
“We want people to enjoy the benefits of a night on the town, but also to make sure they get home safely afterwards, and we are always happy to work positively with any individual or organisation to achieve this aim.”
CityFox might have seen the controversy coming. In 2015, a Southampton-based company, West Quay Cars, used the same image of the woman with a similar slogan: “If I Start To Look Sexy – Book A Taxi”. It led to members of Southampton University’s Feminist Society calling for students to boycott the firm.
CityFox provides taxi services in Bristol, Bath and Plymouth. It has more than 100 vehicles and employs 120 people.
In 2015, a Cardiff-based bus company came under fire for promoting a new route with a poster on the back of its vehicles showing an apparently topless woman holding a sign saying “ride me all day for £3”.
Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.