Renault sexist for selling nail-cum-car paint?

In the Renault commercial, a woman screams "ouch" as she sees a scratch on her blue Twingo. She then paints her nail in blue before covering the car scratch with a brush stroke.
In the Renault commercial, a woman screams "ouch" as she sees a scratch on her blue Twingo. She then paints her nail in blue before covering the car scratch with a brush stroke.PHOTO: RENAULT/ YOUTUBE

The French carmaker rolled out the product in a bid to promote its Twingo car, which is mostly targeted at women

PARIS • Want to fix your chipped nail polish and that scratch on the hood of your car in one go, madame?

French carmaker Renault says it has just what you need.

But maybe it should have scratched this marketing move, given the backlash that it has drawn.

In a bid to promote its Twingo city car, a small urban vehicle mostly targeted at women, the company this week unveiled a nail polish that can also be used to fix small paint flaws on cars.

The move has driven some people to describe Renault as sexist.

The Twingo is for "active lady drivers who need to get about town, but who are also attentive to fashion and looks", the company said in a statement presenting its foray into the beauty business.

For women's rights activists, Renault's marketing strategy is just plain sexist.

The way the offer has been promoted has not helped either.

In the Renault commercial, a woman screams "ouch" as she sees a scratch on her blue Twingo, parked between two vehicles.

She then paints her nail in blue, before hiding the car scratch with a brush stroke.

This "reduces women to their beauty concerns and their inability to drive", Ms Marie-Noelle Bas, head of the French feminist collective Chiennes de Garde, said.

"This insidious, ordinary, daily sexism lays the groundwork for the worst as ads confine women to a constructed role."

A Renault spokesman disputed the perception that the commercial or the polish sale was sexist.

Twingo cars target "urban women who enjoy customisation of their cars", he said, noting that the video did not show a woman who cannot park properly. 

The Twingo nail polish is being manufactured by the Paris-based cosmetics start-up Ink and Out, owner of the De Blangy brand.

The polish has been on sale at Renault's workshops and on its website since Monday for US$10 (S$14) and comes in blue, red, black and yellow.

The product is for sale for a short time, said the Renault spokesman.

For Ink and Out chief executive Benjamin de Blanzy, the controversy over Renault's video is both "amusing" and "rather legitimate".

"It's funny because men, too, will use it," he said, adding that he himself started using nail polish on his car a few months ago to cover minor scratches.

The backlash comes less than a month after a video by PepsiCo drew widespread criticism on social media for exploiting movements, including Black Lives Matter.

Pepsi pulled the commercial from its YouTube page in less than 48 hours and apologised.

The episode showed how hard it is for companies to escape marketing faux pas as they are picked up by social media.

In 2014, Renault withdrew a Belgian video advertisement for the Twingo car that was deemed sexist.

The commercial pictured a woman leaving notes with apologies on other people's cars after parking wrongly.

"We are in a completely different perspective with this video, which is better thought out," the Renault spokesman said.

The nail polish video had about 5,000 views on YouTube in its French and English versions as of early Wednesday.

"The video is making a buzz, be it good or bad," the Renault spokesman said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2017, with the headline 'Renault sexist for selling nail-cum-car paint?'. Print Edition | Subscribe