It sounds like some kind of weird gamer rating system, doesn’t it? Which would also be…problematic. But in this case, Sony has released a print ad in France that compares the latest model of the PS Vita to a women with four breasts, the extra pair appearing on her back. Behold:
C|Net’s Michelle Starr gets right to the heart of the issue with this Sony PSVita ad. She writes, “Please, stop using us as bait to dangle in front of your heterosexual male demographic in order to sell toys.”
Sony reps in various markets have responded with the defense that the ad is not running in [insert market name], which raises the issue of cultural context.
I’m not sure how well that defense works. First of all, are we certain that women in France would not also find the ad offensive? I am not suggesting that the cultural context is not different. But I think anyone would be hard-pressed to argue that this is a celebration of the female body and sexuality. The extremity of the depiction makes the woman into a headless (i.e. brainless, speechless, expressionless) plaything.
Second, it seems like a company with a global customer base should be interested in courting that customer base, no matter where they are. As we see over and over again, companies can no longer control the context in which their messages are received. There may no longer be any such thing as running an ad only in France.
(Nod to my students in “Embodied Identity in Digital Society” for bringing the ad to my attention.)