RSA bristles over 'chewy meat' slight

By Mohamed Hassan

The Ponsonby Social Club manager  says advertising for the club was not intended to demean the RSA.
The Ponsonby Social Club manager says advertising for the club was not intended to demean the RSA.

The RSA has staunchly defended the quality of its food after it was called into question in a "tongue-in-cheek" advertisement by a trendy Auckland bar.

The Ponsonby Social Club has been accused of making "untrue and defamatory statements", after an ad campaign claiming the food provided at Returned Serviceman's Association (RSA) branches was less than desirable.

"The Ponsonby Social Club, kinda like the RSA without the chewy meat and over boiled veges ... Ponsonby Social Club, your kind of local," the ad read.

The campaign, which ended its run six weeks ago, prompted a complaint from a listener to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), saying it was highly offensive and defamatory.

The bar responded saying it was surprised by the complaint, because it intended the ad to be "completely tongue-in-cheek" and didn't expect anyone to be offended.

RSA chief executive David Moger said the advert was banking on an old perception of what RSAs were like, but things had drastically changed.

"If you're ever in different RSAs around Auckland and around the country, you'll find that the food offered is now very different from that old perception that they seem to be trying to trade on."

He cited examples of the Birkenhead and Titirangi RSAs, the latter now flaunting a rooftop garden and a woodfire pizza oven. "The food there is building up such a great reputation in the area that they're attracting a lot of the new customers in there for new members as a result."

Mr Moger said a number of branches around Auckland had complained to him about the ad, but they had chosen not to take any official action. "Fundamentally, we're about promoting our message, and for me, good advertising is about promoting your own products and services and not trying to knock back somebody else's."

He said a lot of people within the organisation were upset by the ad, and felt it was "inappropriate" as well as untrue.

"It's just ridiculous, quite frankly, when you look at where the RSA is today. If that's how they want to spend their advertising budget, good luck to them."

Ponsonby Social Club manager Tony McGeorge said it was just a "bit of a gag" that was run in good faith, and the last thing they intended was to undermine anyone's business.

"I have a huge amount of respect for the RSA. It's a great institution."

He said it was a shame the association had not reached out to them when the ad was still airing, and he intended to email Mr Moger to apologise for any offence caused.

The ASA complaint was settled after Ponsonby Social Club said it had moved on to a new campaign, and would not be running the ad again.

Menu comparison

Ponsonby Social Club

Entrees/Tapas
• Frutti di Mare - grilled mussels, prawns & baby squid topped w/ Tuscan salsa.
• Italian meatballs - homemade beef & pork meatballs cooked in a hearty Napoli sauce.
• Tenderloins - Cajun spiced chicken tenderloins w/ a red pepper dip.

Grill Menu
• Westmere Butchery sausage (beef or pork) served in a sesame bap w/ caramelised onion, salad, aioli tomato sauce.
• Green-lipped mussels sauteed in white wine chilli & tomato reduction w/ side garlic bread.
• Eye fillet steak on a bed of grilled aubergine & roast vine tomatoes served w/ roast winter vegetables & green salad.

Dessert
• Pancakes w/ chocolate sauce, poached pear and crushed hazelnut.

Titirangi RSA

Entrees/Tapas
• Potted chicken liver, duck, sage and Grand Marnier pate served with house baked bread, salad leaves, butter, gherkins, olive oil and balsamic dip.
• Crispy fried squid lightly dusted with cumin and sumac and served on a bed of mesclun with chilli aioli.
• Sun dried tomato and mozzarella arancini (risotto balls) served with a fresh salad, parmesan garnish and balsamic reduction

Mains
• Charcoal grilled pork ribs with BBQ sauce served on hand-cut fries and chilli aioli with a fresh garden salad.
• Boston Bay Jamaican jerk half chicken served with hand-cut fries and fresh garden salad with mango chutney.
• Beef bourguignon with New Zealand beef, onions, bacon, mushrooms with provencal herbs, served with garlic rosemary mash and green beans or steamed bok choy.

Dessert
• Poached pear served with mascarpone infused rosewater and poaching liquid.

- APNZ

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