By ALISON HORWOOD
There's no doubt about it, advertising in New Zealand is getting raunchier but we have become more tolerant of it.
While some Australian states are investigating the compulsory vetting of posters and billboards to stop sexist or too sexy ads, New Zealand is seeing more and more billboards that would never have made it beyond the creative director's mind a few years ago.
Exhibit A: Shortland Street billboard for TV2 saying, "Nurse, suction please."
Exhibit B: The Cut golfing magazine showing a naked woman being fondled, presumably by a man, wearing a golf glove. Caption: "Don't let life get in the way of golf."
The Advertising Standards Authority says television advertisements such as the Toyota bugger campaign and the Trumpet icecream ad where a woman kneels in front of a man and licks his cone, would not have been considered acceptable even five years ago.
Executive director Glen Wiggs said the board received fewer complaints last year than it did in 2000, perhaps reflecting the fact that New Zealanders could see the lighter side of life.
Nurses certainly did not see any funny side of the Shortland Street poster because their union complained that it demeaned the profession.
Mr Wiggs said one of the roles of the board was to reflect the views of mainstream society.
When it received a complaint that an advertisement was offensive, it had to weigh up whether the average Kiwi would find it so.
Society was changing and the ads reflected that, he said. People could take a joke.
Many New Zealand ads came from Australia, he said, but although we were close geographically, we were far apart when it came to advertising. "They have a different culture. There are lots of beaches, breasts and bums.
"It's too cold for that here."
One Australian ad deemed offensive by the board, which ran full-page in Brass magazine, showed a big bottle of Woodstock Bourbon and Cola.
Underneath, the slogan said, Crack a Big Woody tonight.
"Australia is a macho society, whereas the prominence of women in top jobs here has helped to enforce a female empowerment syndrome," Mr Wiggs said.
That had helped to create a double standard for men and women in advertising.
"That's just the way it is," he said. "It's all right to strip men to their undies, but it is not okay to do the same for women.
"It's not our job to create standards, we just reflect the standards of the community."
The raunchiest ads, he said, were not in rugby magazines, but in women's magazines.
The board threw out a complaint recently about a billboard for a women's magazine, showing a close-up of surgically enhanced breasts. In small letters on the right breast, the slogan said: "Actual size."
But Jeremy Irwin, executive director of the Association of NZ Advertisers, agrees that we are becoming more tolerant.
"We have a more relaxed lifestyle now with our eating habits, pastimes, what we do and certainly our advertising reflects that."
In addition to advertising, he said television programmes had content they would not have had a few years ago.
By ALISON HORWOOD