Tyre firm ABS Wheels’ ads had been condemned as sexist by the country’s advertising ombudsman on four separate occasions – a worse record than any other company, according to Swedish media industry magazine Dagens Media.
But now the company, based near Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport, has replaced the raunchy pictures on its ads and its website with straightforward pictures of car wheels – and seen sales soar. “The number of women customers is now six times higher than before,” the company’s owner Andie Lahdo told The Local.
Some of ABS Wheels' old publicity shots
The company, which Lahdo founded, built its base by advertising in Swedish men’s magazines including Slitz and More, which are comparable to international brands like FHM and Maxim. “It was a cheap way to come out,” he said.
“We took Helena who works here behind the cash desk and is a part-time model, and took fantasy pictures, always with lots of fire, which I photoshopped myself,” Lahdo recalled. The style was closely modelled on similar ads common in the American tyre business.
The models would often pose with implements, such as chainsaws, not usually associated with the business of changing tyres. When Lahdo went to car shows, he would be accompanied by a similarly dressed ‘hostess’.
“It’s traditionally a very male-dominated business,” Lahdo explained.
The company’s ads were formally criticized by the Advertising Ombudsman, on one occasion for using the slogan: “we’ve got the hottest models.”
The big change came when the company redesigned its website a year ago without the women – and noticed that sales suddenly boomed, from about 25 orders a day to about 50.
“We saw that we were getting orders from significantly more women.”
“Our marketing now isn’t just products, it’s education-based marketing, with lots of visuals. When we go to trade fairs, we now take a sports car rather than a hostess, which means you meet a much broader set of customers,” Lahdo told The Local.
Lahdo insists he has no regrets about the old ads: “We never had a single complaint from a client about our pictures.”
The rulings from the Advertising Ombudsman were mostly “free marketing”, he says.
“But now, in retrospect, it’s clear that the changes we’ve made have doubled our sales.”
Earlier this month, another tyre company, Pirelli, revealed its 2016 calendar, which instead of showing the traditional semi-naked models now features accomplished women – posing with their clothes on. Read more on The Local Italy.