The Women's International Zionist Organization yesterday sent mobile phone operator Cellcom a letter harshly criticizing the company for sending revealing photographs of model Bar Refaeli to its commercial clients as part of an advertising campaign.
The letter was sent by the chairwoman of WIZO Israel's Department for the Advancement and Status of Women, Gila Oshrat, and department director Ronit Ehrenfreund Cohen, to Cellcom CEO Amos Shapira. It came in the wake of a text message sent to Cellcom subscribers, including WIZO, offering special features for their mobile devices. Attached to the text message was a photograph of Refaeli in a revealing bathing suit, taken from the 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition which featured the Israeli model and actress.
"Drawing a comparison between a women's body and an innovative service for mobile phone customers sends a negative and damaging social message," Oshrat and Ehrenfreund Cohen wrote in their letter to Shapira. "This is a classic, if not cliched, example of the way a commercial company chooses to make use of the female body with no connection to the product being promoted."
Last year WIZO conducted a public campaign against sexist advertising. It awarded the "mark of shame prize" to the Eden Springs mineral water bottler for a commercial featuring Refaeli that used the tag line, "The bar you always wanted at home." Cellcom was among other companies cited for sexist ads. In yesterday's letter, the WIZO officials remarked that Cellcom might win first prize in this year's campaign.
Cellcom issued the following response yesterday to Haaretz: "We apologize. The manner in which the text message was sent contradicts company policy, and the message was sent to a very small number of customers. We thank WIZO for coming to us. We have tightened up our procedures to prevent a recurrence of this kind of mistake."
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