This week, budget Colombian airline VivaColombia tested the theory of whether all publicity is good publicity. It recently launched a controversial ad that has drawn criticism for its sexist and offensive nature, but the subsequent firestorm has also distributed the promotion more widely than anyone at the company ever expected it could be.
The controversy began when an ad appeared encouraging travelers to “Llévate a la moza pa’ La Arenosa.”
The destination, La Arenosa, is a common name for the city of Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast, and the airline was suggesting men should buy a flight there and bring their “moza,” which depending upon your Colombian interpretation can mean anything from mistress to a worse characterization of a woman.
The goal seems similar to that used by scandalous dating service Ashley Madison in North America. Knowing many married people use online sites to cheat on their spouses, it benefitted by ignoring the pretense of making connections and got straight to the point with its slogan: “Life is short. Have an affair.”
While beach trips with companions who aren’t wives certainly do happen, many were upset with the campaign. The ad was shared widely on social media with some appreciating the humor while others were shocked an airline would debase itself with such tactics.
VivaColombia is now back-tracking on its risque style of advertising. William Shaw, president of the airline, apologized in a statement and ordered the promotion taken down.
“Our intention was not to offend anyone,” said Shaw. “We have removed the ad. We do not want to offend any of our clients in Colombia.”
The airline has retained the concept, however, changing “moza” to “la hermosa.” The effect is to invite people to take their sweetheart to Barranquilla — not their mistress. VivaColombia also changed the wide-eyed, curious-looking cartoon character in the ad with one who has hearts in eyes.
Its amended campaign still wants men to take women to Barranquilla, simply for a different reason. Travel to the Caribbean for love — not for adultery.