Sexy or sexist? Toronto penthouse ad portrays 'beautiful woman servant' as 'bumbling idiot': critic

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Sexy or sexist?

In the promotional video for a King East condo, a young woman makes dinner for three men and spills food and drinks on herself, prompting her to change her dress. (Vimeo/Karyn Filiatrault)

A video listing for a penthouse condo that shows a woman stripping down to change between the courses she's serving three men has prompted protest from a Toronto women's group, calling it "sexist advertising" — even as its creators say the ad has done its job.

PSR Brokerage Ltd. published the listing for the 318 King Street East condo and say that their video has generated huge interest. The ad also appears on the Vimeo page of Karyn Filiatrault, a PSR employee, former film professional and the sales representative for the $2.15-million, two-bedroom property.

Below is the promotional video that the company posted on Vimeo. 

It now appears that it has been taken down for public viewing. 

In the ad, a woman is seen greeting three men in suits. She then cooks and serves them several courses, spilling beer, wine and tomato soup on herself while she's alone in the kitchen — and, each time, the camera follows her to a new spot where she'll let one dress drop on the floor in favour of another.

King(dom) in the Sky

The story's title, broadcast in bold letters at the beginning of the ad, is King(dom) in the Sky.

It's not, however, the kind of advertising that attracts photographer Breanne Gimza. The east-end Toronto woman first saw the video posted on a Facebook group for young mothers in the city.

"It made my skin crawl," Gimza says. "The woman is only there to serve the whims and desires of the men that she comes into contact with, with food and her body."

The photographer describes watching a story involving a "beautiful woman servant" portrayed as a "bumbling idiot" — an object in an apartment that would apparently only appeal to male buyers based on the narrative.

"It's so offensive and so sexist and ridiculous that I just felt icky."

'Unique movie about a unique property'

Two of the women behind the ad's creation, however, say they're surprised by the controversy it's created. The agency has received several negative comments about the way the ad portrays women, Filiatrault says.

Creating "lifestyle films" to help sell property is part of the package she offers her clients.

"As part of my marketing plan, I plan, write and manage the production of a lifestyle focused unique movie about your unique property," she writes on her website.

And both she and PSR Brokerage partner Corrie Hain say the ad is meant to be funny, keeping someone hooked throughout its three-minute, seven-second run time so that they see the entire property.

"Some people might see a woman enslaved in the kitchen, delivering meals to her powerful businessman husband and his partners," Hain says. "Others might see a woman doing what she loves in the kitchen, entertaining guests at home — with a few blunders and handling it like any strong woman would.

"In the end, she actually sits down with her guests at the dinner table and everything's equalized."

Unfortunately, the women say, time constraints meant they had to cut the ad's last frame: the three men doing the dishes.

Ad generated more viewings: brokerage

The pair say that they've had more than double the number of showings for the listing than they would normally on a property in that price range.

"My intention when listing any property is to get as many eyes on it as possible from prospective buyers and I think we definitely did that with this video," Filiatrault says.

"We succeeded," Corrie Hain interjects.

"We succeeded is right," Filiatrault says.

Playing the long game

But success depends on what it is you're trying to win.

And while GWP Brand Engineering president and co-founder Philippe Garneau notes that the ad certainly got attention, there's also a risk to the agency's brand.

In this case, Garneau says the video doesn't align with Filiatrault's brand as a "realer kind" of real estate agent.

"Because a 'real' real estate agent doesn't use fake women and fake people," he said. "And this [actress] doesn't seem like any woman anyone has ever met."

Filiatrault's website also highlights other "lifestyle films" she's created for her clients.

Those include one that features a french maid dusting a man's apartment and another that shows a woman undressing and then changing into short shorts and dancing.