Home Aviation Air New Zealand’s Cougar Campaign

Air New Zealand’s Cougar Campaign

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In the aftermath Air New Zealand’s successful Nothing to Hide television and print campaign, they have launched a viral-ready Cougar Pride advertisement through December 2009 and January 2010 that featured a David Attenborough style mocumentary detailing the (apparent) desperate single life of the slightly older NZ female population. Perhaps their campaign was inspired by the aggressive 30-something types that plague the ranks of their female cabin crew.

The campaign was cancelled on January 18th after a massive backlash.

The GrabaSeat “Cougar” campaign was part of February’s NZI Sevens rugby tournament held in Wellington. The campaign encouraged 35-plus-year-old women to send in photographs of themselves out on the town with their “wild cougar mates”, with applicants going into a draw to win a flight and ticket to the event. Winning victims were to be given ‘cougar costumes’ and equipment so that they could supposedly attract the attention of young males.

The Air NZ video at the center of the controversy introduces the cougar as a female that is “too old to be your girlfriend [and] too young to be your mother”. The term has become synonymous with sexually aggressive older women on the hunt for younger men and can be used in a derogatory way, or as a means of empowerment.

ABC’s Cougar Town starring Courteney Cox has given cougar-like behaviour unprecedented credibility and is often blamed credited for the resurgence in the number of older women dolled up as drag queens in Australian and NZ nightclubs.

The Air NZ campaign shows a so-called cougar “starving itself on sparse vegetation during the day then hunting large slabs of rare meat at night … by stalking young men at a bar.” The voiceover goes on to say that, “… despite the male’s attempts to ward off the woman’s advances, the cougar has not tasted fresh meat for days, and drags her prey to an inner-city flat often forcing them to listen to Enya or the Eurythmics”.

According to the mocumentary, cougars – aged in their 30s, 40s and 50s – routinely prey on men in their 20s, many who “pretend to be gay” to avoid them.

New Zealand Rape Prevention Education’s director and women’s advocate, Kim McGregor , has said that “[they] have had complaints from male survivors who have been raped by women and are very distressed that their situation is being laughed at and made out to be humorous”. She goes on to tell the New Zealand Herald that “… they find it degrading… and they’re concerned that [the campaign] is encouraging potentially harmful behaviour, so [the] question is… why is [our] national carrier promoting sexually predatory behaviour?” She also claims that a large number of Air NZ staff were concerned about the campaign.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the campaign was supposed to be “light-hearted” but some older women had “taken a bit of offence to it”. There is currently no company response on the ANZ website.

Interestingly, there’s no common word to describe the sexually aggressive males that prey on younger females. It’s unlikely that a campaign portraying the sexually aggressive night-life of single males searching out “younger meat” would be well received at all. Why should it be any different for females?

The airline has posted removed a series of linked TV commercials to their YouTube account.

The Cougar campaign was developed at 99 Auckland – the same team behind the “Nothing To Hide” campaign.

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