Fiat fined for sexist mail-shots

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The Independent Online
THE anonymous printed letter, on pink notepaper in an unmarked envelope, went to thousands of Spanish women but none of them knew that at the time. 'Yesterday, we passed in the street and I saw you looking at me with interest,' it said. 'I only have to be with you a few minutes and . . . I promise you won't forget our experience together.'

The letter, received in March, caused some women to avoid going out, some to complain to the police. The impression was of a sex-mad 'stalker' who had been watching their every move.

Yesterday the High Court in the city of Zaragoza fined the Fiat motor company a symbolic 15,000 pesetas (around pounds 75) for sending the letters, which were to be the first stage of an advertising campaign for a Fiat model new to Spain, the Cinquecento. The court also ordered the company to pay 140,000 pesetas damages to a Zaragoza woman who had taken the issue to court.

The anonymous writer was, with the help of a copywriter, the new Fiat car. He and the letter's recipient were made for each other, he said. 'I only have to be with you a few minutes and, even if it doesn't work between us, I promise you won't forget our experience together.'

Fiat planned a second letter explaining who the writer was and suggesting a test drive. The women's complaints pre-empted that idea and the campaign was quickly dropped. Instead, Fiat's marketing director in Spain followed up with a letter of his own, apologising for any harm done.

Announcing the fine and damages, believed to be the first penal conviction here for an advertising campaign, the Zaragoza High Court ruled that the advertisement was 'in the worst possible taste, with highly erotic content'.

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