Round-up of the week’s odd marketing stories

  • Anti-Religion ad banned: Last month the South African Advertising Standards Authority banned an ad from a church for claiming miracles, this month UK’s ASA banned posters from the British Humanist Association asking people to check the “No Religion” box on census forms. The reason? They had the “potential to cause widespread and serious offence.”
  • 575-pound spokesman for Heart Attack Grill dies: ‘Heart Attack Grill is an unabashedly unhealthy restaurant – the menu consists of huge burgers, milkshakes and fries cooked in lard – and having such a big man as a spokesman was part of its tongue in cheek “glorification of obesity.”’
  • LA Clippers celebrate Black History month after Black History month ends: Not surprising really. As AdFreak points out “given [team owner Donald] Sterling’s standing as a poster boy for racial intolerance and bigotry, I’m amazed he missed it by only two days. By all accounts, this meathead is about as racially progressive as Archie Bunker. This is a guy who paid $2.73 million in 2009 to settle a federal lawsuit that claimed he discriminated against blacks and Hispanics when renting apartments in L.A.”
  • Del Monte unveils individually plastic wrapped …bananas. In case that wasn’t silly enough, the company claims the biodegradable wrappers are part of a “green initiative.”
  • Aussie schools sell booze for fundraising:  “The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) has written to every school principal in the country asking them to reconsider the sale, use and promotion of alcohol products when raising money. In the open letter, chairman Dr John Herron said there were concerns students were being used as "couriers" between school and home for advertising material, forms and payments for alcohol as part of fundraising activities.”
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    Bad week for Groupon – UK says ad exaggerated savings

    The Advertising Standards Authority STRIKES AGAIN!

    The ad on the Groupon MyCityDeal site offered customers a four-course meal for two with a bottle of wine, or two pints of any alcoholic or soft drink, at the Wagon and Horses restaurant for £24, rather than £92.

    Groupon claimed this was a 74% discount, however, one customer complained the number was exaggerated.

    In its defence, Groupon said the calculation of the offer price was made on the basis of the most expensive items on the menu at the time it signed the deal with the restaurant.

    The ad’s small print, which had been incorporated following a similar ASA adjudication last month, said the discount is based on "highest price".

    Church banned from advertising miracles

    No MiraclesSouth Africa’s Advertising Standards Authority has told The Christ Embassy Church to stop making claims on national television that it can treat diseases such as AIDS through faith healing. “The ruling came after the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), South Africa’s main HIV/AIDS lobby group, filed a complaint against the church, which has paid programming on the private channel featuring people recounting how they have been cured by Christ Embassy.”

    How would the ASA rule on other miracles? Can a church say that it will provide you eternal salvation? Forgive your sins? Make you one with the universe? Have interesting sermons? Once you get rid of miracles what else does a religion have to sell?

    Really, if the US stopped companies from advertising miracles it would kill the beer and diet commercials immediately. It wouldn’t stop there, either. Any number of film directors would no longer be able to claim their movies were “good.”

    The other fascinating thing in this is, “What is a commercial?” What if a religion simply broadcast religious services? This is a very germane question. Last year,

    the ASA ruled that the content of the Christ Embassy television show was not an advertisement, but sponsored programming, and it therefore did not have jurisdiction over its content. The TAC then appealed, which led to the ASA ruling that found the programme to be: an advertisement, as defined by ASA’s code; promoting faith as a means to cure illness or disease; promoting Christ Embassy as the place to seek this cure, and; violating ASA’s code because it offers a product to cure a disease for which it has not received Medicines Control Council registration.

    The church would be appealing on the grounds that the television programme was not an advertisement and that the church did not intend registering with the Medical and Dental Council. "The product is called faith," [Attorney Sean] Sim told the Mail & Guardian.

    Art by Nathan Coley

    Calvin Klein ads banned for using gang-rape images to sell clothes

    stop_violence_against_womenDown in Aussie land the Advertising Standards Authority has banned a Calvin Klein ad campaign  because it was “suggestive of violence and rape.” And by “suggestive” they mean “depicts in a faux artsy way.” I’m not going to post the picture because the ASA is spot on about this. The not-usually shy Daily Mail describes it as featuring a model “posing with three male models in the controversial image. Her head is rested on the lap of one, while she is straddled by another.” Perhaps they were feeling demure because they did run the picture. Who knows?

    An ASA spokesman said, “The Board considered that whilst the act depicted could be consensual, the overall impact and most likely impression is that the scene is suggestive of violence and rape.The Board considered that the image was demeaning to women by suggesting that she is a plaything of these men.”

    I, for one, would like to see the ASA banning ALL ads that suggest women are a plaything for men. Of course, that would destroy the advertising business – so it’s a win/win!

    Sausage ad’s double entendre ruled harmful to kids

    SX1000 Apparently there are 21 people in the UK who have never seen Benny Hill. We know this because 21 people filed complaints about sausage ads asking listeners to reveal "where you like to stick yours." As in:

    • "Think about all the things you can stick this tasty, extraordinarily large sausage in."
    • "Mmm… Pizza, pasta, stir fry. You have any ideas? Give me a call and tell me where you like to stick it."

    Complainants said the ads were offensive because of the sexual innuendo and shouldn’t have been aired when children were likely to be listening. Once again no one complained about the real issue – stupid sophomoric sex references passing as comedy.

    The Advertising Standards Authority did not uphold the complaints about the innuendo because it was not sexually explicit, but said the ads could "cause harm to children."

    If they start banning stuff for being so stupid it would cause harm to children then the airwaves will be empty.

    Brit soft drink puts obscenity on new label

    Tango is a carbonated beverage sold in the UK. It is evidently quite popular and prone to “problems” with its advertising. The latest mistake stems from not reading their own label carefully enough. Observe:


    Turn the phrase into an acronym and you get …

    Given that their prime audience is UK teens the company should run everything through a very strong “sophomoric sex obsessed humor” filter. (This is the best such problem I’ve encountered since 2007 when Spirit Airlines launched a campaign with the slogan “Many Islands, Low Fares.”)

    Tango made something of a career out of alleged mistakes like this. Ads frequently feature vaguely double entendre catchphrases such as "You need it because you’re weak," "Feed the Tango Inside" and "You know when you’ve been Tango’d."

    The last, from 1991, featured a campaign that either irresponsible or brilliantly viral or both. It had an ad showing a man being slapped around the face by an orange-clad person (Peter Geeves) immediately after drinking Tango. The ad was pulled after a craze for "Tangoing" people allegedly swept the nation’s playground. Which doubtless just made the slogan more interesting. Bet owner Britvic wishes YouTube had been around then. Either despite or because of this the advertisement was named the 3rd best television commercial of all time in a 2000 poll conducted by The Sunday Times and Channel 4.

    UK ad standards agency to rule on God’s existence

    nogodThe UK’s Adertising Standards Authority has been asked to rule on a campaign by an atheist group featuring signs that read, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”  (Note: the action part of the message works just as well if you replace “no” with “a”.) The campaign from the British Humanist Association has been challenged by a group called Christian Voice on the grounds it  breaks rules concerning substantiation and truthfulness.

    The ASA’s code states “marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims”. The regulator said it would assess the complaint and decide whether to contact the advertiser.

    Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said: “There is plenty of evidence for God, from people’s personal experience, to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world.  But there is scant evidence on the other side, so I think the advertisers are really going to struggle to show their claim is not an exaggeration or inaccurate, as the ASA code puts it.”

    Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said: “I am sure that Stephen Green really does think there is a great deal of evidence for a God (though presumably only the one that he believes in), but I pity the ASA if they are going to be expected to rule on the probability of God’s existence.”

    Once it hands down this ruling I want the ASA to get to the bottom of the whole Mac or Windows thing.

    Aussie ad campaign continues on a roll

    Man, those folks from Down Under sure know how to get the most for their ad dollar. Having previous reaped a whirlwind of free press from getting the “So where the bloody hell are you?” ad banned in the UK, they’re now doing it again — this time in Canada. The Canucks have banned the ad from TV and say there’s no point in the Aussie Tourism Minister coming to the Great White North to appeal the case as she did in the UK because they’re not going to change their minds. Well, I bet Ms. Bailey still makes the trip as the point of her trip won’t be to change the decision but to get publicity and I bet it will again work like a charm. Hmmmm, what mildly racey word can they put in the US version?

    BREAKING NEWS!!! Turns out they didn’t have to ad anything to get free publicity in the US. Adjab points out that  the ever looney American Family Association (motto: We Make PETA Look Rational) has gone on the offensive and found something offensive. According to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald:

    AFA members are expected to bombard Tourism Australia with thousands of emails and phone calls in coming weeks to vent their feelings. Members are also expected to boycott Australia as a holiday destination. “I just feel pretty sure the typical American family who is watching TV with their children and they’re exposed to this ad are going to be upset,” AFA director of special projects, Randy Sharp, said. “I don’t want my children to hear that phrase. It’s a shocking phrase because we’re not familiar with it. I guess they use it all the time in Australia, but it’s a foreign language here so I think it’ll have a negative impact rather than positive.”

    Nervous Aussie tourism officials said losses from the AFA’s decision could mount into the high single digits. They were actually more worried as to what would happen after the boycott ended. “Wasn’t ’til they stopped the ‘cott of Ford that Ford really started to lose money,” said one Australian stereotype.

    Don’t Randy Sharp’s quotes sound so dumb as to be made up? Sadly, it’s in keeping with everything else I’ve read about him. Can we nominate the AFA for some sort of award for “PR Person’s Best Friend”?

    Company finds that all that Glitters is not good ad copy

    My beloved Advertising Standards Authority of the UK has reprimanded for mentioning sex offender/rock trivia answer Gary Glitter in an ad for children’s theatre tickets. The ad, showing two young boys, stated: “Like Gary Glitter in a sweet shop, you too can have your pick of kiddy treats in London’s theatre world.”

    In a fit of understatement the ASA wrote, “We considered the reference to a registered sex offender in conjunction with images of children in an ad for children’s theatre was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.” The company has removed the ad and apologized. Sadly, the apology does include the only thing that would have explained this: “Because we’re idiots, that’s why.” As Mrs. Collateral Damage will attest, that’s practically my own personal motto.