Audi has dropped a “provocative” advert showing a young girl eating a banana in front of a sports car after receiving a string of complaints on Twitter.
The German car maker posted the image of the RS 4 Avant with the caption: “Lets your heart beat faster – in every aspect.”
But the company later apologised and said it would be withdrawing the “insensitive” ad after dozens of critics claimed it was “provocative” and dangerous.
The image showed a young girl wearing an animal print dress while holding a half-peeled banana and leaning against the grille of a red sports car.
Some Twitter users complained the driver of the vehicle – marketed as having the high performance of a sports car and the functionality of a family car – would not be able to see the child from that position.
While others said the banana was a phallic symbol and that the slogan was sexually suggestive.
One Twitter user named Angelo wrote: “Nice that you show how children can easily be killed by your cars. You can’t even see them out of the car.”
Shiri@home tweeted: “Little girl with phallic symbol in hand. Sure, great,” while Bike Lin said the advert was “disturbing on several levels”.
And DjBeeTee wrote: “Right. Let’s add them up: red = erotic, sports car = replacement of potency, animal print mini dress = sex appeal, banana = phallic symbol. But everything is just a coincidence...”
Audi said the advert was a “mistake” in an apology issued on Twitter, adding: “We hear you and let’s get this straight: We care for children. The Audi RS 4 is a family car with more than thirty driver assistance systems including an emergency break system. That’s why we showcased it with various family members for the campaign.
“We hoped we could convey these messages, showing that even for the weakest traffic participants it is possible to relaxingly lean on the RS technology. That was a mistake! Audi never intended to hurt anyone’s feelings.
“We sincerely apologize for this insensitive image and ensure that it will not be used in future. We will also immediately examine internally, how this campaign has been created and if control mechanisms failed in this case.”
German carmaker Volkswagen, which owns Audi, withdrew a car advert earlier this year and apologised after it appeared to show a white power gesture and racial slur.
The 10-second video showed a pair of giant white hands moving a dark-skinned man away from a new yellow Volkswagen Golf before flicking him into a café called “Petit Colon” – French for little colonist.
Volkswagen said it was “horrified” by its own advert, which the company described as “inappropriate and tasteless”.