There's a Tui billboard in Clive, Hawke's Bay, that reads: "There's a second wave of hotties at 2am. Yeah right." It would be nice to think that perhaps they're referring to a luxury lodge that delivers fresh hot water bottles to guests in the early hours of the morning. But more likely it's a reference to so called "beer goggles" - defined by urbandictionary.com as a "phenomenon in which one's consumption of alcohol makes physically unattractive persons appear beautiful."
So the left-hand side of the billboard is saying that even the ugly chicks will look hot if you stay out late enough and drink enough beer. Since when is the denigration of women an acceptable part of any respectable brand's marketing campaign? Tui billboards may be famous for being edgy but surely this one is a step too far, a tad too misogynistic.
Is that why it's buried in the township of Clive, population 1500 in 2006? Do the advertising people dare not place it in a high profile spot near an Auckland motorway where it is likely to inspire the ire of urban feminists and activists in general? Yet I suspect that a brand of beer that has been "distracting the boys from the task at hand since 1889" would consider offending feminists a desirable component of any campaign.
Tui - which targeted this group with the billboard that read: "Having a beer with the Auckland feminist group would be fun. Yeah right." - has also offended other niche groups including:
* Redheads with "Santa even likes ginger kids. Yeah right." (Evidently this one was installed in error.)
* Christians with "Let's take a moment this Christmas to think about Christ. Yeah right."
* Jehovah's Witnesses: "Sure, I've got ten minutes to talk about Jehovah. Yeah right."
* Transgendered people in 2004 with a billboard which was the subject of a complaint that was upheld by the Advertising Standards Complaints Board.
Apart from the fact they're belittling a boutique sector of society, the main problem with these billboards and the one about beer goggles is that they're not even funny. They're not fresh or interesting either.
Even if it's masquerading as humour, having a go at people on the basis of their gender, hair colour or religious belief is so irrelevant it surely has no place in the contemporary world. These examples above come off as simply tired, even a little desperate and it's a shame because Tui billboards have become world famous in New Zealand.
They've entered the local vernacular. "Tui billboard" is now shorthand for casting serious doubt as to the veracity of a statement or opinion. "Yeah right" has joined Toyota's "bugger" in the list of memorable utterances spawned by advertising campaigns.
A corporate statement said that Tui billboards are "generally hard case, intelligent and irreverent and draw on topical issues in the public eye". That may be the aim yet all too often the messages are just puerile and offensive.
Some of the ones that reference current affairs - such as "Hey, I saw Len Brown on the train today. Yeah right" and "Banksy, here's $25k for noreason.com. Yeah right" - are genuinely amusing and do evoke a wry smile as you drive by. It would be nice to see more of this type and fewer of the nasty ones. "Tui billboards: no longer randomly targeting women, religions and redheads. Yeah right."
What do you think about Tui billboards? Which ones have you found most offensive? And which ones do you think are funny? Is it time their messages became more responsible - or do you wish the complainers would just grow a sense of humour?