Fast Cars, Equal Pay: Audi Drives Controversy on Gender Parity Ad

Audi sparked controversy in its latest Super Bowl ad pushing gender parity.

Audi sparked controversy in its latest Super Bowl ad pushing gender parity.

The hotly contested Audi television commercial premiering at The Super Bowl features a father mulling over how to tell his young daughter the financial facts of life.He asks if she knows that “despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued less than any man she ever meets?”He then decides, “Or maybe I’ll be able to tell her something different,” and they head over to an Audi to drive off into the sunset of gender parity.The spot is the work of Aoife McArdle, a female director, another anomaly in the advertising world, where fewer than 10 percent of the top commercial directors are female.[bctt tweet=“Audi sparked controversy in its Super Bowl ad pushing gender parity #SuperbowlLI #taketheleadwomen” username=“takeleadwomen”]“The commercial closes with father and daughter embracing after the race and walking up to their shiny Audi S5 Sportback, because after all, it’s a car commercial. That doesn’t make the message about equality and progress any less moving and important, though. Additionally, Audi said it has pledged to ‘support ongoing commitment to women’s pay equality in the workplace and to foster a work environment that drives equality for all employees,’ according to a press release,” writes Tony Mervick in Thrillist.This would all be well and good except the ad for gender parity did not earn equity on the comments. Nearly 5 million pre-game views of the ad on youtube  garnered a tsunami of hateful, negative comments, at a rate of about 25 percent negative and 13 percent positive, according to Networked Insights, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.“Audi for America is committed to equal pay for equal work,” appears on the screen, though the backlash prompted a Twitter frenzy of #boycottAudi hashtags. More than 25,000 comments deriding the ad were up within hours.“Every once in a while, there’s a commercial that’s well made and pushes a positive message as well as its product. This Audi commercial is one of those rare few. The commercial depicts a girl racing against boys in a soapbox derby while the voiceover makes an uncomplicated case that men and women should be valued equally. Seems like a pretty obvious thing to say,” writes Micheal Hafford in Refinery29.Just so no one thinks Super Bowl ads have erased the sexist bro, slap on the back legacy, other top ads aired during the Super Bowl were a flashback for Mercedes with Peter Fonda and a group of mostly burly male motorcycle riders, and also an ad for Yellow Tail wine, featuring a male spokesperson asking bikini-clad Australian model Ellie Gonzalves, “Want to pet my roo?”It seems that Audi going all out for gender parity – a mission of Take The Lead by 2025—is a costly move.“This year the going rate for 30 seconds of air time was a reported $5 million, and that was before advertisers even knew the ratings-magnet New England Patriots would be playing. According to Variety, Fox had already sold 90 percent of its ad space by December—because no matter which teams make it, the Super Bowl remains the premier broadcast event for commercials. Nothing comes close, not the World Series, the Oscars—nothing,” writes Natlaie Finn in Enews.“If you are not creating something that transcends the 50 other ads in the Super Bowl, then you are wasting your money,” said Jason Sperling, executive creative director of the Santa Monica ad agency RPA, according to the Los Angeles Times. Sperling told the Times: “Advertisers, he said, try to read the national mood so commercials feel topical. Concepts for this year’s Super Bowl typically were approved last summer — when most political observers predicted that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was about to become the first female president.”He added, “None of us knew that we would be thrown into this much chaos and divisiveness. There are benefits and downsides to taking risks. Either the ad feels too light and airy, or it feels like it 100% dialed in.”Audi took a social justice stand on Super Bowl Sunday for gender parity, but it may not be walking the talk.[bctt tweet=“Audi took a stand at the Super Bowl for gender parity, but it might not walk the talk #equality” username=“takeleadwomen”]According to Business Insider, “No women sit on Audi’s Management Board  and its 14 person American executive team only has two women. In the press release for the Super Bowl ad, the car company said it was publicly committed to supporting women’s pay equality and pointed out that half of the candidates for its graduate internship program must be female.”The lack of gender parity has made headlines in more than ads for the past several years.“Across the United States, 34-year-old women, on average, make between 10 and 18 percent less than 34-year-old men. That gap isn’t surprising—it’s actually been slowly improving in recent years. What’s striking is that, when you only consider Ivy League graduates, the gap is significantly wider. This wage disparity came to light in a study by The Equal Opportunity Project, recently featured in The New York Times, that focused primarily on socioeconomic inequality. The study showed that female Ivy League alumni make 30 percent less than their male peers,” according to The Atlantic.The disparities are prevalent in some industries at a deeper rate than others.“The industries with the highest salaries—like finance, management consulting, and law—are also the ones with the largest gender wage gaps. Two major factors within these industries contribute to the disparity: Some attract more men than women, and all allow for relatively little flexibility. Ivy League women also tend to have partners who work in the same high-paying industries that they do. When they have children, these partners make it financially feasible for women to forgo promotions and raises, or stay at home., “ Caroline Kitchener writes in The Atlantic.Though one automobile ad—even if it is seen and argued about by millions—may not close the gender pay gap in this country, but Audi may be onto something big in courting female care buyers.“Women purchase 65 percent of new vehicles and the same percentage of service work done at dealerships. Although women comprise the car-buying majority, they are in the car-selling minority. The dealership world is less of a male domain than it once was, but men still make up the majority of staffers, according to the National Automobile Assn.’s Dealership Workforce Study,” reports WardsAuto.“Women make up 18.5 percent of dealership employees, says the study. Eight percent of women were employed in key positions, 91 percent in office and administrative posts.”As for Audi as a luxury car maker appealing to a female audience, women tend not to purchase as many high end vehicles. That could be because they are paid less. So perhaps if Audi fights for equal pay, more women could afford an Audi.Women “have a lower presence in the luxury car segment, a fact apparently reflecting lower income levels,” writes Paul Eienstein in The Detroit Bureau. “But that has begun to rise, and automakers as diverse as Audi and Ferrari have begun trying to target potential female buyers.”McArdle, the Audi commercial director released a statement: “It goes without saying that we should be blind to gender and race. People’s merit can’t be predetermined on the purely superficial. It’s commendable that Audi is committed to implementing equality in the workplace. Hopefully other leading brands will follow suit.”