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Wicked Campers has attracted a slew of complaints over the crude slogans on its vans and doesn't seem keen to change its ways - but a trio of ministers are intent on bringing it to heel.
• Government ministers are teaming up to crack down on campervan company over its slogans. • Fines and camping ground bans are among moves being considered. • Associate Tourism minister Paula Bennett is leading the charge, saying she believes the slogans are offensive: "I'm determined to do something about it."
There is a danger this article will give Wicked Campers the very publicity it seemingly seeks out through the brash slogans on the back of its vans.
And yet, it was a risk three government ministers were willing to take when deciding to tell the Herald on Sunday of their determination to squish from the company the behaviour for which it has become notorious.
And it suits Wendy Palmer, who pulled into the Four Square Spring Creek on the outskirts of Blenheim about 18 months ago to see a Wicked Camper parked up.
"Big legged women ain't got no soul," read the slogan on the back of the van. Led Zeppelin lyric or not, Palmer noted the short-skirted, bikini-topped tourists in the van and thought of girls not quite so body-proud.
"My first thought was 'f*** that's offensive'," she says. She snapped an image of it, did her shopping and left. "I just got angrier and angrier. I thought, 'you know what, it's an advertisement so I'm going to make a complaint'."
So she did, working through the bureaucratic detail of lodging a formal complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority. Once done, it worked through the system and Wicked Campers earned another of the 15 upheld or settled complaints against its name.
At that level, it exceeds Hell Pizza, once noted for its edgy and offensive campaigns, which has had 13 complaints settled or upheld.
It was a "brief moment" of satisfaction for Palmer, 66. Brief, because nothing really changed.
As the ASA notes in its decision, there was "concern" from its board at Wicked Campers' "repeated refusal to engage with, and respect, the principles of self-regulation".
"I'd like to see the ASA have more teeth," says Palmer. The current system "relies on [the advertiser] being a good corporate citizen".
"You have a company that says 'f*** being a good corporate citizen'. I'd like them to be a responsible marketer. Funny slogans are great but having funny slogans at the expense of women, largely, is just awful."
On that, there's wide agreement.
Wicked Campers is the brainchild of Australian John Webb.
He has ignored repeated requests to be interviewed for this story. To be fair, he (and Wicked Campers) ignore pretty much everyone. They don't respond to the ASA, didn't respond to NZ Transport Agency concerns, ignored government ministers who wrote and didn't take calls from the Director General of Conservation this week.
His only interview appears to have been with an Australian marketing website about seven years ago. Of the business, he said: "It's more about a reflection of myself in some ways ... just having fun. It comes from ... looking for reaction. We think we can't do that then all of a sudden, we're 'stuff it, let's do it'."
The business came as he moved from fixing cars to renting cars. The Wicked Camper brand, with its graffiti styling "all started from getting my wife to paint a car to make it look a bit more special".
"The next one was painting a van rather than fix dents cause they're always getting dented. I'd rather paint them up than fix dents. As soon as we fix it up they dent it again."