Trade Me bosses say a newspaper ad describing their customers as "freaks" is likely to backfire.
A half-page ad for Bond and Bond in yesterday's Weekend Herald promises "Trade Me prices without having to deal with the freaks".
Trade Me head of business Mike O'Donnell said the ad would hurt Bond and Bond, not his company.
"Given that 1.9 million New Zealanders are members of Trade Me, if Bond and Bond are suggesting they are freaks, that would hurt their business. I think any consumers, knowing they're being called freaks, would not respond very well."
He suggested the ad was the result of the high street retailer being concerned about "massive overheads" compared to the online auction site.
But Bond and Bond marketing manager Roslyn Mortimer said the ad was "light-hearted humour".
"It's not with an intent to offend, it's just a reference to the Kiwi tongue-and-cheek humour."
Mortimer said the ad was probably thought up over a coffee meeting with marketing staff sharing stories about their Trade Me experiences.
She said the ad was a one-off, and would not be used again.
Contrary to Trade Me claims, she doubted the ad would offend, citing the company's 130-year history and the opening of their 32nd store in Dunedin.
It's not the first Bond and Bond ad to spark debate. In January the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint about an ad which said: "NZ has the 3rd highest level of personal debt, help us get to no. 1."
The complaint, from the Invercargill Budget Advisory Service, said the advertisement was "socially irresponsible".
Bond and Bond said the advertisement was "cheeky' but not offensive.