WHAT do you see in this picture - a woman walking home in the rain because she hasn't booked a cab or a victim of rape?

Minicab company Data Cars delivered 200,000 postcards bearing this image to homes across the area, insisting it merely shows a woman caught out by the weather.

But, within hours of the cards hitting south east London doormats, complaints rolled in accusing the company of exploiting sex attack victims.

News Shopper: Minicab ad campaign sparks online rage over 'rape exploitation'


The postcard publication started a frothing wave of online outrage, with angry comments on the Data Cars Twitter feed and complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority and Transport for London.

Mel Johansson complained: "What the hell is this horror that just came through my door?"

Twitter user John Traynor wrote: "Hello @datacars, just seen your ad on a postcard; is it saying: 'Pay for a cab or you might be dis-robed and beaten'?"

Others said shadows on the girl's body resembled bruising and she looked in some distress, likening it to adverts for minicab safety campaign Cabwise.

Dee Emm Elms wrote on the site: "Check the bruises on her arms. That's what bothered me. 'Use our cabs - or u gonna get RAPED!'"

Katie Russell from charity Rape Crisis said: "This is a really unfortunate and misguided piece of advertising.

"The best case scenario, giving the company the benefit of the doubt, is that they're not aware of the associations that the image on this postcard conjures.

"The worst case scenario is that they've knowingly used scare-mongering, sexist and victim-blaming imagery and messaging in a cynical marketing ploy."

News Shopper: Data Cars manager Les Chapman


Data Cars manager Les Chapman said he was inspired to run the campaign after seeing his teenage daughters coming home from a night out looking like "drowned rats".

He said: "The way we viewed the image, it is simply a girl who has gone out on a hot summer evening and the predicable British weather has opened the heavens and she got soaking wet.

"This is something we see every year and this year we decided to place an advertising campaign with this in mind."

He said the wording on the back of the postcard makes it clear: "You should look just as great coming home as you did going out, so don't gamble on the weather... get a Data Cars minicab."

But it seems not everybody has got that message.

He said: "I think in life people see everything in different ways. Most people who have looked at it, I'd say 99.5 per cent, have seen it exactly for what it is."

Mr Chapman went on: "The comments can be frustrating as we promote safety more than any other minicab company in south east London and would obviously apologise if we have offending anyone."

He said: "Data Cars have always been at the forefront with safety ideas and were the first local company to introduce drivers' ID badges way back in the 1990s as well as the first to text the vehicle details of the customer nearly 10 years ago."