Since 1964, the Italian tyre company Pirelli has commissioned photographers to create a very expensive promotional calendar. It typically involves some of the world’s most beautiful women jetting to an exotic backdrop to be photographed (usually nude), by an elite fashion photographer. This year is no different. The calendar, shot by Steven Miesel, features coveted models like Joan Smalls, Karen Elson and newcomer Gigi Hadid.
The auto industry has also been a boon for models in China – at least till this year. That’s because one of China’s premier car exhibitions looks to have banned auto firms from draping scantily-clad women over their cars.
Victor Yang, spokesman for Geely Automobile, told Xinhua that the company has received verbal notice from the Shanghai auto show’s organiser that no models can be used at the week-long event, which begins on April 20. An official of the Shanghai car show says the ban is still “under discussion” and not yet confirmed.
If true, the move is another sign of prudishness. Just last week, WiC reported that the latest TV hit drama, The Empress of China, offended censors because the actresses on the show revealed too much cleavage.
Placing beautiful women next to flashy cars has long been a marketing gimmick at China’s auto shows. In fact, Wuhan Evening News says many attractive women shun beauty pageants to become ‘car models’ instead. The more alluring ones can be paid Rmb10,000 ($1,650) for an appearance.
But in the race to grab attention that’s led to a ‘less is more’ approach in the costume stakes.
“Hiring models is a tradition, a method of promotion,” one netizen wrote. “We should have them as long as they don’t grab the public’s attention in an erotic way.”
“People who go to car shows don’t just look at the cars but also to see the beautiful models. If the show doesn’t allow car models, of course it is not going to attract people to go to watch,” says IT Home, a portal.
But is doing away with models such a bad thing? While the news triggered criticism online (most likely from male netizens), Yang from Geely says it will be a positive move for carmakers because the models often distract attention away from the cars. “An auto show is an industry event to showcase cars, not beautiful models,” says Yang.
Southern Metropolis Daily says the appearance of racier models leads to crowds gathering around the cars. But when the ladies leave, the attendees soon disperse. Some carmaker have even wondered whether the strategy has backfired. “All the money spent on the car is useless,” one company executive lamented to the newspaper.
Meanwhile, some car fanatics have applauded the move: “Finally we can admire details of the cars without the models draping all over them. Moreover, we can now take pictures of the cars without people thinking we are perverts taking indecent photos of the models,” one netizen wrote.
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