ITB 2022 Special Reporting
Kiwis & Cougars: A Match Not Made In Heaven.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Tuesday, 26th January 2010
What happens when cougars are let loose in Kiwi land?

Yeoh Siew Hoon looks at the latest anti-social media outrage. Perhaps we live in a too politically correct world these days where we have to watch every word we utter, every word we write and every idea we share.

Look at the ruckus in Malaysia caused by Christians using the term "Allah" and the opportunity it has given lunatic fringe groups to stir up tensions when the majority of us just want to live together in peace.

Then there was the case in Singapore earlier this year when Singpost created what I thought was quite a clever campaign. It spray-painted postboxes around Singapore and then got slammed with charges of vandalism and, in the end, had to apologise for the publicity stunt.

In most cities, it'd be called an act of creativity thinking outside the postbox, as it were but in Singapore where there is no such thing as random street art and where painting graffiti is an offence, well, people just weren't used to the idea of crazy people going around painting public property, and reported the acts to the police.

It will also take a long time for Langham Hotels to live down its viral videos gone wrong when it tried to position its Langham Place as a sanctuary for foreigners wanting to escape locals who were portrayed in a rather unflattering light. That theme was deemed to have crossed the line from creative to offensive and the hotel had to pull their videos.

Now comes the latest Air New Zealand "cougar" video (see above) aimed at promoting its Grabaseat discount airfare site.

The ad portrays older single women as man-hungry "cougars" on the hunt for younger men and "fresh" meat. The promotion calls on women aged 35 and over, who pursue men at least 10 years younger, to compete for tickets to a rugby tournament by sending pictures of themselves out with their friends, or "cougar mates".

So what's a cougar? Well, the real one in the wild also known as puma, mountain lion, mountain cat, catamount or panther, depending on the region, is apparently the second heaviest cat in the American continents after the jaguar, and the fourth heaviest in the world, after the tiger, lion, and jaguar.

In the human female context, they apparently have these characteristics according to a very enlightening article I found. One, they desire younger men, two, they have positive self images and care about the way they look, three, they are independent, four, they like sex and five, they don't seek children, cohabitation or commitment.

The ANZ ad introduces the cougar as "too old to be girlfriend, too young to be your mother," and as "starving itself on sparse vegetation during the day then hunting large slabs of meat at night" by seeking out young men at a bar.

The cougar, the ad explains, hasn't "tasted fresh meat for days," and will eventually pounce and drag her young male prey back to her apartment "where it will cruelly be made to listen to Enya or the Eurythmics."

Grabaseat thinks it's a "good bit of light-hearted humor" and a celebration of the "quirky sense of humour Kiwis are renowned for," others differ. The most vocal critic is New Zealand's Rape Prevention Education director Kim McGregor who labeled the ad disgusting and degrading, saying, "it is encouraging potentially harmful behaviour, so my question is why is our national carrier promoting sexually predatory behaviour?"

McGregor said, "We have also had complaints from male survivors who have been raped by women and they are very distressed that their situation is being laughed at and made out to be humorous."

Personally, I found the video rather funny and it was a brave man (I am assuming the creator is a male) who dared to put it together. Its execution is really cheesy though, the lines are awful and the acting sucks.

But as has been proven time and time again, one woman's meat is another woman's poison....

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com

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