Volkswagen’s Pregnant-Lady Ad: Sexist or Just Silly?

Guys ignore woman in labor to marvel at the car

This Canadian spot by the Red Urban agency for Volkswagen's 2012 Passat has birthed comment and controversy. A doofus drives to the hospital and engages in a lively discussion of the Passat's features with a paramedic, leaving his pregnant wife forgotten inside the car. "Guys? Having a baby here!" she cries. The story line has been derided by some—notably Art Threat blogger Stefan Christoff—as offensively sexist. He writes: "Promoting cars over human life is simply not acceptable and must not pass without protest." (Oh, I dunno. Some cars are really cool and a lot of people really suck.) Christoff gets quite political, claiming the scenario constitutes "a crime against future generations and drives industries across the globe to destroy environments for access to oil." Work That Matters disagrees: "For all my ranting about sexism in advertising, cultural cancers like car obsession and threats to the sacredness of motherhood, I just can't conjure up any outrage over this ad. None." Personally, I found that VW Routan spot from a few years back, which awkwardly joked about women having babies to get the car, to be far more objectionable. (It had Brooke Shields and that talking car with the German accent. Scary on so many levels!) I'd brand the new commercial hackneyed and predictable, using such broad and familiar humor that it barely registers. In any case, the controversy registered with the automaker, which yesterday removed the clip from its YouTube and Vimeo pages. A big advertiser shrinking back from controversy? Babies!

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.