Charlies soda ad ban turns into fight over double standards

Criticism over the banning of a Charlie's Soda advertisement has spilled over into a fight about double standards on television.

Today writer and creative director of the banned ad Gavin Bradley took issue with what he described as the double standard that applies one set of rules for programmes and a very different set to ads.

But Hilary Souter, executive Director of the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA), said there were different standards and there always had been.

"There certainly have been for the 34, nearly 35, years the ASA have been in operation. Advertisers are held to a higher standard because of the commercial imperative."

Earlier today Charlie's director and television personality Marc Ellis called for an overhaul of advertising rules for television.

The controversial ad, which depicts two young boys spying on a woman sunbathing nude in her backyard before cutting to the boys squeezing lemons to make lemonade, was ruled indecent by the ASA which said it used sexual appeal to sell an unrelated product.


Ellis said the ad used the same "innocent humour" as award-winning programmes such as The Simpsons, Bro' Town and The Family Guy.

"It is political correctness gone mad when a tiny minority can dictate that such a fun and innocent cartoon commercial could be found offensive."

Ellis said Charlie's realised everyone would not share its sense of humour and people had the right to voice their opinions.

"However, we need to look closely at the absurd and confused regulations which can see an ad approved for television and then subsequently have that approval withdrawn because just eight out us four million New Zealanders have complained.

"Not only does this decision have a big economic cost to Charlie's but it allows an embittered bunch of naysayers to dictate terms to everyone else," Ellis said.

Mr Bradley said the ad was an innocent piece of humour which was judged by the Television Commercials Approval Bureau - the professional body to which advertisers must pay a fee to gain a certification without which their ad cannot be broadcast - to meet all aspects of the Advertising Code of Practise.

"To then, as a result of eight letters of complaint, have your ad judged against that same code by a panel of enthusiastic lay people, and banned from broadcast, I think is absurd," he said.

Mr Bradley said the rules set out in the Advertising Code of Practise were overwhelmingly about prevailing community standards.

"What mystifies me is that this ad for Charlies Soda can no longer be played on television in this country.

"Not in the documentary The World's Biggest Penis, not in Naked Wild-On, not in Californication, and certainly not in Friends in which, although I have never watched it, I am reliably informed every single character has slept with and cheated on every other character."

They were all incredibly popular shows which rated highly and therefore brought huge advertising revenue to the networks, he said.

"There would seem to be two very different sets of prevailing community standards in play.

"I think it's high time the Advertising Standards Authority reviewed its code, let marketers get on with their job in the real world and dropped this namby pamby nanny state mollycoddling," Mr Bradley said.

Ms Souter said that while Mr Bradley spoke about a panel of enthusiastic lay people, the complaints board was appointed by the authority and consisted of five public members and four industry members so the industry had representatives around the table.

"The standards are different," she said.

"There are two different organisations that administer them, one is ours which is a self-regulatory organisation that's funded and supported by industry, and the other is the Broadcasting Standards Authority which is a co-regulatory organisation which is empowered by statute."

Ms Souter said the best thing about self-regulation was that there was some flexibility.

"Generally prevailing community standards do change," she said.

"For example we had 120 complaints about the (Toyota) bugger ad in 1999 and it wasn't upheld, but I would suggest that if that ad had played three or four years earlier then they could well have been upheld.

"The context of that ad, the level of humour when it was played, all of those things combined to help it get on the right side of the line in terms of acceptability."

Ms Souter said the level of flexibility with code interpretation in relation to community standards allowed the board "some movement in relation to where the community's at in these types of areas, and they do change".

- NZPA

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