One very unhappy complaint to the ASA

Ten more of the best ad complaints rubbished by the ASA

Back in all their misspelled, verbatim glory, we present 10 more of the most entertaining complaints made to and dismissed by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) from July – December 2018.


Read more: No grounds to proceed: this year’s best TV ad complaints rubbished by the ASA


How meaty is Meat Week really? (December 2018)

What was the ad? Good ol’ Stick Man is at it again, wearing a Santa hat and barbecuing various meats to promote Pak n Save’s Meat Week sale. “We’ve got every kind of meat under the sun at low prices,” he says. “Meat week: on now at Pak n Save.”

What was the complaint? The complainant, who apparently drove 45 minutes to get to Pak ‘n Save Hastings specifically for its Meat Week deals, found that:

“The ad on TV implied that all meat was on special but all we found was some chicken and mince and corned beef. We expected a lot more choice available than this but was bitterly disappointed. Is this false advertising we ask ourselves as they do say on the add ALL meat.”

What was the decision? ‘Is this false advertising?’ the complainant duly asks in what I imagine to be a ‘Is this a pigeon?’ type scenario. Ultimately, the Chair found that it was not, pointing out that the ad actually says “every meat under the sun at low prices” not “ALL meat” as per the customer’s complaint. Therefore, the Chair ruled that there were no grounds to proceed.

Merry Techmas! (December 2018)

What was the ad? The Noel Leeming TV ad shows a woman receiving advice about a gadget she’s buying as a gift.  The voiceover says: “With our expert service and selection at Noel Leeming. Have a Merry Techmas.” The word Techmas is also spelt out using representations of gadgets, speakers and a gaming controller.

What was the complaint? In a classic blasphemy-related complaint, J. Earwalker argues that:

“[The] Noel Leeming Advertisement using “Techmas” instead of Christmas denigrates the religious status and origin of Christmas and is highly offensive”

What was the decision? The Chair said “the likely consumer takeout of the advertisement would be in relation to the gift-giving element of the fictional word ‘Techmas’, rather than any religious connotation”. Final ruling? No grounds to proceed.

“She was slapping her own bottom” (December 2018)

What was the ad? Set in a fantasy Christmas-themed beach environment, the ad for Bonds shows people in their underwear doing various summery activities (like lying on deck chairs) and not-so-summery activities (like riding on sleighs). At the end of the ad titled “A White Christmas… Down Under”, there’s a close-up shot of a woman wearing pink underwear brushing sand off her derrière.

What was the complaint? The complainant, who apparently saw the ad on TVNZ On Demand, said:

“Not sure about their [TVNZ] policy on the time of different advert but it was at 7.15pm. It was very inappropriate as a young woman in pink underwear looked more like she was slapping her own bottom (I understand she was brushing stuff off her bottock but that’s how it looked as the camera had a close up view of her buttock and hand). I think it was extremely inappropriate for it to be on broadcast at that time of the day.”

What was the decision? The Chair noted that in the context of an ad for underwear it was appropriate to show people modeling the product being promoted. The Chair also noted that the theme for the ad was Christmas “down under” and the shot of the woman in her underwear could be seen as a humorous reference to this theme. Therefore, the complaint (which displays very little understanding of how ‘on demand’ streaming works by the way) was ruled to have no grounds to proceed.

When life gives you lemons (December 2018)

What was the ad? An ad for Bayleys Real Estate shows a young boy struggling to sell homemade lemonade. He’s eventually approached by another young boy who examines the lemons and then grabs a pen, altering the sign that says ‘Lemonade’ to ‘Organic Lemonade’. The stall suddenly becomes massively popular, with the young boy commenting “So your Dad works in marketing at Bayleys?”

What was the complaint? As a “certified organic primary producer”, the complainant took issue with the sign change, arguing that:

“It reflects on the lack of integrity within the real estate industry with organic produce being used or exploited for its gain. Organic is what is within or on the product not the word!

Anything creditable tries to be exploited by greedy, dishonest self-interested people for $ gains. It is expensive to become a certified grower (producer) of organics & is not just changing a signage in order to capitalise.

Mutton dressed as lamb is still a sheep. Lipstick on a sow is still a pig or pork. This ad is artificially constrained (Bayleys other ad) with misrepresentation.

True organic producers don’t want to be associated with the negative real estate industry and
its lack of credibility. Remove this ad!!

What was the decision? The Chair ruled that there were no grounds to proceed, stating that Bayleys was “attempting to use humour to reflect the level of hyperbole that can feature in real estate advertising” and that “the word ‘organic’ was incidental in this case and other words could have been used to demonstrate the importance of good marketing.”

“The students are simply scoring points” (November 2018)

What was the ad?  In another Bayleys ad from the same series, a teacher is shown demonstrating a supply and demand graph in front of a classroom. The teacher says: “If we continue to decrease supply, prices will continue to rise.” A pupil then raises his hand and says: “Surely that only holds true if demand hasn’t been artificially restrained?” The teacher looks taken aback by the answer but notes that it’s a good point, while two girls whisper to each other that the pupil’s father works for Bayleys.

What was the complaint? The complainant, who saw the ad during an episode of “Seven Sharp on TV3”, argued that:

“[The ad] denigrates teachers by making the teacher look stupid to the students. The students are simply scoring points – and clearly setting out to make the teacher uncomfortable. The relevance of the point being made in the ‘story’ to Bayleys is obscure. However, the real issue is that – just when we need to recruit and retain teachers – we are prepared to make them look foolish in front of a class.”

What was the decision? “Although the teacher did seem initially thrown by the pupil’s input, he goes on to praise the pupil for making a good point and continues on with the lesson.” Therefore, the complaint was ruled to have no grounds to proceed.

“Gingers deal with enough pain” (November 2018)

What was the ad? An ad for Subway’s spicy buffalo chicken shows a man with ginger hair buying multiple bottles of milk at the supermarket. The voiceover says “Are you ready for spicy buffalo chicken at Subway?” The man is then shown eating the sandwich and says with a lisp “That’s my kind of thpicy”.

What was the complaint? The complainant, N. Edlin, submitted this thpicy response:

“This ad encourages negative stereotypes of people with ginger hair. It encourages bullying and is lazy advertising. I would consider this ad to be ginger-phobic. It’s a cheap shot, gingers deal with enough pain and anguish from an early age, during schooling, etc. This kind of advertising only further encourages the stereotype that all gingers are one-dimensional dweebs who have no sense of aesthetic, or ability to present themselves in a way in which they can’t be stereotyped.”

What was the decision? How the complainant managed to extract all this micro-aggression from a 15-second ad about a sandwich is completely beyond me. Regardless, the complaint was ruled to have no grounds to proceed with the ASA finding that it “did not consider the ginger-haired character had been singled out for ridicule”.

Winner winner toothpaste dinner (November 2018)

What was the ad? “The average New Zealander spends more than 24 hours a year brushing their teeth,” a voiceover in a Red Seal toothpaste ad says. “In that time they use over a kilo of toothpaste. If you’re wondering what that looks like, it’s this much…” Cut to an image of literally a kilo worth of toothpaste being squeezed onto a dinner plate with a knife and fork.

What was the complaint? The complainant had strong feelings about Red Seal’s visual metaphor, arguing that:

“The ad showed a dining plate with a knife and fork with 1kg of toothpaste on it, indicating that toothpaste is something that is eaten or consumed rather than expelled after cleaning as the Red Seal toothpaste pack states. This would lead a consumer to believe that they should choose Red Seal toothpaste because it is healthier to eat than other brands.”

What was the decision? The Chair ruled the complaint had no grounds to proceed. Because really, if you’re a fully functioning, living, breathing adult and you think it’s okay to eat toothpaste, you’ve got way bigger problems to think about than this ad.

“A party of youths” (September 2018)

What was the ad? A Corona TV ad shows a Landrover driving on a road, through a river and then parked beside a lake where a tent’s been erected and a fire’s been lit. Four people are looking at mountain views and one is drinking Corona beer. The video finishes with the tagline: “From where you’d rather be.”

What was the complaint? Concerned citizen D. Kerrigan wrote in to complain that:

“My concern regards the end of the advertisement which appears to show a party of youths camping at the edge of a mountain lake. A four-wheel drive vehicle is has driven onto the beach and a large (4-6 person) tent pitched alongside it.

The combination of the land rover, tent and mountain vista is clearly meant to link, in the mind of the viewer, corona lager and the ideas of freedom, travel and youthful energy. These links will create a favourable sense of Corona in many viewers minds which the brand is attempting to leverage from.

My issue is that the advertisement clearly depicts freedom camping. The Land Rover is clearly meant to indicate this lakeside is located in a remote area and accessible only by a 4wd track, therefore what are the campers using for ablutions? Given the concern regarding freedom camping in this country I do not feel it is appropriate that an international brand is attempting to leverage off such activity within a clear New Zealand context. I therefore feel that the advert is in breach of rule 1(i) of your guidelines – Protecting the environment and would like you to investigate this matter further.”

What was the decision? No grounds to proceed. Also, ‘ablutions’? Really?

“To quote historical researcher Max Cryer…” (September 2018)

What was the ad? An ad for Meridian Energy starts off with the presenter (radio and TV host Jeremy Wells) saying: “We all know that New Zealand is the best little country in the world”. As he’s speaking the New Zealand national anthem is being played in the background. Then he says: “But we have a rival – Norway… because they’re way ahead in electric vehicles”. The music proceeds to slow right down and then stops, before starting again in a sped-up remixed version.

What was the complaint? True patriot T. Agnew wrote in to complain that:

“The advertisement takes a recording of God Defend New Zealand and plays it at slow speed till it stops. (The intention is to suggest another country is outstripping NZ.) I understand why it was done but found that mangling one of our national anthems in this way was disrespectful and disturbing. To quote historical researcher Max Cryer, ‘Throughout all the victories and failures ’God Defend New Zealand’ has functioned in the mysterious way that familiar music can, as an ephemeral binding substance, which becomes a rousing symbol of all-Kiwi strength when the chips are down, and a trigger to cheerful raucous enthusiasm when they aren’t. ” – in ’Hear Our Voices we Entreat’, (2004), page 124. It is distressing to hear part of our national heritage being mutilated by an advertiser, Meridian energy, in this way.”

What was the decision? No grounds to proceed. Mangle away, Meridian!

“I’m glad my childhood meal table wasn’t like that” (August 2018)

What was the ad? The Old El Paso television advertisement is in muted colours and shows a man (actor Danny Trejo) at the head of a formal family dinner table pulling the tablecloth off and saying “Amigos, its time to ditch the dull dinners.” The scene becomes full of colour and busy with a family making their own dinner using Stand and Stuff tacos.

What was the complaint? The complainant, 70-year-old B. Pyle, had this to say: 

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“The Stand’n’Stuff Soft Taco Kit ad opens with a grimacing, angry, threatening man tearing the cloth, dishes and food off the table. It appears to me that had the man been in a home setting he may have been on drugs e.g. methamphetamine. This program is intended for families. Since children and teenagers may be watching, the ad could be very disturbing. If they have a drug abuser in their home, it could be even worse. It doesn’t promote community standards of dining together; rather it suggests it could be a violent occasion to be avoided. It promotes violence, undue aggression, and menacing or horrifying elements likely to disturb, and may encourage anti-social behaviour. As a 70-year old I found it VERY disturbing. I’m glad my childhood meal table wasn’t like that. This ad should be modified or removed from air.”

What was the decision? The complaint was ruled to have no grounds to proceed. Poor Danny Trejo, the guy can’t even sell tacos without being labelled as a villain.


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