Melbourne taxi company 13Cabs has caved to public pressure, dumping its controversial "rape" campaign following a 4000-strong petition led by social organisation Change.org.
The campaign, which highlighted the risks of increased sexual assaults if the State Government were to introduce pre-booked hire cars, used imagery of distressed young women to imply the act of rape. It was based on a long-running London campaign which warned women to beware of unmarked hire cars, and saw outraged consumers deem it as "digusting", "shameful" and "offensive".
The petition, started by 22-year old Melbourne student Jane Quinlan, deemed the brand to be "exploiting the threat of rape and sexual assaults on women to pursue their own profit-driven agenda [...]. It is clear that 13Cabs is attempting to reduce competition, allowing them to increase prices and avoid meeting the community’s expectations of standards of service. I am troubled by their obvious exploitation of the genuine concern for women’s safety."
An email was sent to 13Cabs chief executive Stuart Overell and marketing manager Simon Purssey each time a signature was added to Change.org's petition.
Consumers took to the brand's Facebook page to denounce the campaign, with one user commenting: "What a disgusting fear campaign. SHAME SHAME SHAME!!!"
Another commented: "Un-bloody-believable. Disgusting ad. And do you really think we the public would fall for such a self interested generated rubbish?"
The brand announced yesterday that it was dumping the ad initiative, with Overell admitting that the company had "got it wrong". He told The Age: "We'll definitely be looking to change the focus of our campaign, it seems to have spiralled in a direction we didn't intend. We don't plan to continue the scare campaign... we'll focus on the lack of identification for the pre-booked only cars or mini-cabs."
Upon hearing of the petition's success, Quinlan said: "This was a disgusting ad campaign that tried to use rape and women's fear of sexual assaults to squash sensible recommendations by the Taxi Inquiry.
"I’m pleased that 13Cabs has finally realised it is not OK to exploit the genuine fear about rape and sexual assault."