A Lamborghini ad campaign featuring teenage girls in crop tops posing in front of luxury cars has sparked a backlash in Italy.
The auto giant commissioned a renowned Italian photographer to take a set of evocative pictures in Palermo, one of which showed an adolescent girl with an exposed midriff seated in front of a yellow supercar.
The online ad campaign portrayed the Sicilian city as being 'like a girl, full of hopes and dreams', but critics were quick to slam the campaign on social media.
The mayor of Palermo demanded that the ad campaign be suspended and the pictures have since been removed.
Lamborghini had hired 21 photographers to take a set of pictures with supercars across the country in what it called a 'declaration of love to Italy'.
The recruits included Letizia Battaglia, a veteran photographer best known for portraying the Sicilian mafia in the 1970 despite death threats from the mob.
However, her pictures of young girls with supercars in Palermo proved a flop on social media, where Lamborghini had posted them with a caption describing Palermo as a 'city that is like a little girl, full of hopes and dreams'.
One critic said: 'There are other ways to enhance the beautiful Palermo. Certainly not the combination of girls and luxury cars, which I find in bad taste.'
The Palermo mayor, Leoluca Orlando, said the city had approved the idea of a Lamborghini-backed 'photographic project' celebrating the beauties of Italy.
However, he said he had not been shown the pictures of the young girls before they appeared on social media.
'I really admire Letizia for her love of Palermo and the children of this city, but these messages send the wrong message', Orlando told The Times.
'I don't approve of using the bodies of women and children for commercial use.'
Battaglia herself rejected the criticism, saying she was 'saddened by these reactions'.
'For me Palermo is a child with an innocent look that grows,' she said, according to Corriere della Sera.
An Italian art directors' group said Battaglia had likely 'pursued an idea that was in her mind, the Palermo-child, without realising that she returned something else'.
'The only thing is that the women here are girls,' the group's director Vicky Gitto told Italian media.
A Lamborghini statement to Palermo Today said: 'We particularly wanted Letizia Battaglia on the team of 21 Italian photographers because we share her values and the sense of responsibility she has always shown in her works.
'When we decided to involve her, we were well aware of the strength and the impact of her photographs, given her long career of covering topical and delicate subjects.'
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.