News / Toronto

Ashley Madison repeats ‘censorship’ cry as CougarLife jokes canned in Canada

A cougar (an older woman interested in younger men, not a cat) shoves a meat sandwich into a younger woman’s face. She pushes another girl off her chair; french fries fly everywhere.

Is it too violent for TV? Or just clever marketing? is crying “censorship” over an ad in which a busty woman runs roughshod over younger women in a bar while explaining why cougars are better dates, because a Canadian regulatory body—the Television Bureau of Canada—has ordered that it can't be aired unless the sandwich-shoving and the chair-pushing shots are removed.

Cougar Life is owned by Toronto-based Avid Life Media, best known for its adultery dating website Avid has had plenty of experience generating news coverage and buzz over censorship of Ashley Madison, which has been dropped from search engines, banned from advertising on the TTC and during the Superbowl and spurned after making an offer for naming rights at a New York stadium.

Avid alerted the media Tuesday—issuing a press release and offering up an interview with the ad's actress, porn star Julia Ann—claiming that the commercial, which has run in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, “has been banned from Canadian airwaves by Television Bureau of Canada.”

“I’m kinda stunned by the whole thing,” said Ann. “I find it interesting that in a country where a sport like, say, hockey is so prevalent, admired, supported, and played everywhere—they’re heroes and all I have to do is put a sandwich in a girl’s face and it’s banned for violence.”

But Avid and the Television Bureau of Canada disagree on whether or not that’s true.

“This CougarLife commercial is not rejected,” said Theresa Treutler, president of the Television Bureau of Canada. “This commercial is in a pending file—what that means is we have replied to (Avid) and in our reply we offered several potential solutions.”

Threutler said Avid never replied to TVB about the commercial, so she was “curious” about why the issue had gone to the media now.

“We also offer advertisers the opportunity to appeal if they disagree with the telecaster analyst response,” she continued. “That was offered, but it was never taken up. Again, I’m kind of confused by why this is coming up now.”

But CEO Noel Biderman maintains that Avid has been fighting to get the commercial on the air and has in fact responded to the TVB and launched an appeal, and sent Metro copies of correspondence that backs him up.

“It’s a flat-out lie,” he said.

The emails also show the TVB rejected a shot where the cougar pushed a meat sandwich into another woman’s face and when she appears to push another woman off her chair, which they described as “gratuitous violence.”

“The woman can nudge the younger girl forcing her to leave, but she should not physically knock her over,” it said.

According to the TVB that correspondence should never had been released because it's covered by a confidentiality agreement. Furthermore, the email chain was edited and the situation is more complex than it seems, said spokesperson Sylvia Augaitis, who added she couldn't elaborate because of the same confidentiality agreement.

Biderman maintains this isn’t a publicity stunt—he’s truly “pissed” that the commercial was rejected, adding that violence against women is a serious issue that shouldn’t be trivialized by being compared to the lighthearted video.

He argues it’s Cougar Life itself the TVB objects to, saying “I think this is an individual or an organization that clearly has an issue with a dating service that features older women dating younger men.”

Treutler said the sexual nature of the product isn’t the problem. “We aren’t a censor board here,” she said.

Porn star decries Canadian censorship

Julia Ann, a porn star and former Penthouse Pet, said she's used to working around Canadian morality issues—but banning her Cougar Life ad went too far.

Ann said she's seen censorship a number of times in her career.

"In the beginning of my career, when I started with adult films I found that we were shooting double the amount of stuff, so that way we had a copy that could be sent to Canada. Let's say a sexy blindfold put on a girl during sex—now suddenly this is too much for Canada," she said.

Canada banned the importation of “immoral or indecent” material until the late '80s, then banned the importation of material deemed obscene, which is why bondage and related activities have typically been considered too much for Canada.

"It's a very odd situation," she said.

Ann said she believes sexuality and violence should be kept away from kids, but "there's a time and place and an audience for both."

In the case of the Cougar Life commercial, she said it was neither violent nor sexual.

"I touched the girl's face with the sandwich, which was to get some colour on it so it made sense for the camera when she pushed it away," said Ann "There wasn't any sexual content either. I showed less cleavage than a girl in a bathing suit in a soda commercial."

Ann said the censorship issue could ultimately be good for CougarLife, depending on how many people end up talking about it.

"You could say any press is good press," she said. "If it's just a flash in the pan, then maybe not. Then, the commercials would have been more beneficial. But if this becomes heavily talked about, then of course, it's out in the public eye."

More on