28 May 2010

Cathay Pacific: Great Service, Great Girls, Great Ass.

Recently, this crazy elephant was lucky enough to embark on a wild and wonderful jungle adventure to attend the bi-annual glitter symposium on 'the global benefits of glitter'. For this epic journey of glittery proportions, my chariot was to be the one and only emblem and source of pride and joy of our village's aviation industry, Cathay Pacific. It's been a while since I've traveled on Cathay but I remember it being pretty good times. While I was waiting for our village's mascot of hi-tec glory, the airport express, I could not help but notice Cathay's latest attempt at an ad campaign. See pictured billboard, coupled with the slogan: 'Great Service, Great People & Great Fares'.

At first glance, this billboard seems harmless enough, yet upon closer inspection, I couldn't help but roll my trunk (elephants can't roll their eyes) at the highly stereotypical compilation of 5 Asian women, plus 1 Caucasian captain. These 'casual' snapshots of what i can only assume to be 'the team' with radiating smiles and joy tell me close to nothing about them, the airline or the ad campaign - except that they are all quite gorgeous, and well, thats about it really. Call me a cynic, but really Cathay? Really? Could you be any more lazy?! This is what you choose to hook me onto your airline? Slightly sexualized beautiful Asian girls? Could you be any more fucking original?

I mean, I guess if I had a penis, and more specifically a white penis, I would be less inclined to gripe with this particular ad, but as a female child of the jungle, this add just seems plain boring, lacking inspiration and picking up on a stereotype in Hong Kong that I would rather forget let alone promote...!

A little more digging into their ad campaign, and I see that in fact Cathay has an entire web page dedicated to these floating faces, with self written bio's and stories regarding their passions, interests and relation to Cathay, idea being so you can 'get to know the team'. If that really IS the point of this campaign, than why not use a line from each persons bio and highlight each crew member's individuality? Something to tie it in with the airline? Something like 'Meet Ting Ting, our samba extra ordinaire, who discovered her passion for dance via our daily flights to Brazil', something! Anything! For the love of all things impure and unholy, something that gives this campaign depth!

More venturing on the website, and you see Cathay obviously had to cover all their bases, and chose to include a black woman, a white woman, a few Asian men, and other races and species of human on their website. This leads me to conclude, if, in fact, Cathay is trying to emulate being an international airline, with an international staff for this very international city we live in - where are THEIR pictures? Why don't they have a billboard? Hmmm Cathay?! Why is it, on all your billboards scattered around HK, you only have young Asian girls and older gweilo men? That's right! I'm calling you out, bitch! What sort of customer base are you trying to target here?!??!?!?!

And yes, I will acknowledge we ARE in Hong Kong after all, and beautiful Chinese girls would logically be managing our *needs* in the skies...however, I also do believe airlines play a big role in representing our cities. Especially big international airlines. And yet, somehow i'm supposed to believe that THIS is all Cathay could choose to come up with to represent Hong Kong?!? I mean in a way, I guess it is fitting for this village of ours - a highly superficial ad campaign based on looks and appearances, with beautiful young Asian women and older gweilo men........hmmm....................Cathay's ad campaign successfully went from being 'come visit the heart of Asia' (2006 campaign) to 'fly to HK and live out your stereotypical Asian fantasies, 50 000 ft up in the air'.

Now really, is this supposed to make me want to fly you, Cathay? For the most part, everyone already knows the air hostess's often are selected based on physical appearance, which is true of most jobs in the hospitality industry, so throwing beautiful women into your ad isn't really creating a 'great people' sort of impression. Combine the girls with a gweilo captain, and all I can think of is being stuck with a mile high version of Wanchai, serving me food and selling me duty free, with gweilo monkey men oogling over the help....I think I'll pass, thank you very much........

You disappoint me, Cathay, try again please, and next time, leave the sex & stereotypes at the door.



  1. when i saw the ad, my first response was, 'where can I find the cute/hot flight steward version?' so unfair and disappointing.

  2. so trueee!!! definitely not right!

  3. I have no idea why I would choose Cathay just because of that advertisement. It doesn't offer any content at all. It seems that many ignore the implications an airline might suggest, just like we often neglect the importance of an airport.


  4. As a gweilo who's girlfriend is Asian-American, I'm not sure how to feel about this post. Am I a stereotype? Is there something wrong with my interracial relationship?

    I guess I have a "white penis" too. Do men with white penises have less control over their sexual urges than men with other colors of penises? I have definitely noticed that gweilo are stereotyped as sexually voracious in HK (not unlike the way black men are stereotyped in the US, but without a lot of the other negative stereotypes black men face in the US). Again, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about this post. Part of me is a little offended by the white penis remark. But perhaps I'm taking it the wrong way.

  5. hmmm, first off, i have absolutely NOTHING against interracial relationships, seeing that i've only been in inter-racial relationships my whole life - and if this post makes it sound like im being 'anti - interracial - its not the case. And no, men with white penises do not have less control over their sexual urges - frankly, i think most men are the same when it comes to their sexual urges.

    But, being in HK for so many years, i've seen the same story on repeat for my entire life. I think more than half of my european/american friends who grew up here, their parents marriage ended in divorce. Usually with the father leaving the mother for an asian girlfriend. Maybe thats a big generalization, but stereotypes emerge from trends. Even my parents friends, who are quite young (in their 40s now) - growing up, i saw the same thing. Expat men with asian girlfriends - and often the relationships weren't healthy relationships - for various factors, which i think are too long to get into here - but a lot of the unhealthy aspects came from a difference in culture, expectations, lifestyle etc.

    Now, that said, there are of course many successful inter-racial relationships, that are healthy and beautiful - but sex, and specifically gweilo/asian sex has been part of HK culture for a long long time, it was part of what hong kong was founded on, and it manifests itself quite obscenely - hello, wan chai. I remember being hit on at 14 by all sorts of gweilo men, and only gweilo men/marines would have the balls to do so - and to be fair, the asian women - a lot of them do love the novelty of a gweilo man and vice versa. so im not blaming white men, i think its both ways - but i do also think this topic is too complicated to be able to assess all the factors in one reply.

    But wes, this post was mostly about cathay pacific using this aspect of the hong kong culture for its advertising of an airline. i'm sure they could've come up with something more original. it wasn't supposed to focus so much on the inter-racial aspects of things. It was more about the lack of original advertising and general blah-ness of the campaign.

  6. Thanks for your clarification. The stuff about Asian women/European men wasn't really what bothered me. It was this line:

    "I mean, I guess if I had a penis, and more specifically a white penis, I would be less inclined to gripe with this particular ad"

    This seems to imply my being male makes me less likely to be rational about the unhealthy stereotypes in this ad. (I actually agree with that, as a tendency, though it doesn't tell you anything about individuals). But it also implies that my being white makes me less rational about this ad. Am I getting that part wrong?

    Just imagine how that line would sound if you replaced the word white with black. I hope we can both agree it would be offensive in that case. I don't really see how this is different.

    Whatever your formative experiences in Wan Chai were, military guys and guys who hang out around brothels might not be representative of all guys with that same skin color.

    Anyway, I like your posts. Environmental destruction and the way advertising poisons our minds are worthy topics, and topics I agree with you on. In my opinion though, the white penis remark does more to reinforce stereotypes than combat them. Despite the handicaps of my gender and my skin color, I'm able to understand why this ad is problematic.


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