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Devil’s doughnuts, exploding heads and phony science

Thursday 23rd March 2017

Ah, New Zealanders, we can be an easily offended bunch.


Hell Pizza ad.
Hell Pizza came under fire for its 'candyman' promotional ad.

Image: Hell Pizza/Youtube

Each year, more than 800 complaints are dealt with by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Some are about fluoride or sexist slogans on campervans, others are about farts or the size of a Triple Whopper burger compared to a Double Whopper.

Advertising is everywhere and the authority’s most recent turnover report said advertising revenue is climbing towards $2.5 billion per year.

The ASA, which has five full-time staff and a budget of about $750,000, is the only regulatory organisation standing in the way of the inappropriate and the incorrect.

Since the beginning of February, more than 50 complaints have been reviewed. Here are the very best:


The complaint:

“This advert is disgusting, it clearly shows lumps of poo (human shit) (sorry) going into the toilet, then an actor spraying VI Poo solution after she has had the poo, ready for the next visitor to the toilet. Really, I was eating cheese and cracker and had to stop. This is urgent please get it stopped!!”

The ASA’s verdict: Rejected

The ASA ruled the advertisement uses humour to deal with a socially uncomfortable subject - toilet odour. It also noted the visual of the toilet was animated and no actual faeces were shown in the advertisement.


The complaint:

“The Hell Pizza ad depicting a man's head being blown up is shown before every children's show I click on. We are trying to watch 'Kate & Mim Mim' and 'The Care Bears'. The ad is inappropriate for children and is graphic.”

The ASA’s verdict: Settled

The majority of the ASA’S complaints board said the timing of the advertisement was a concern as the exploding head was very realistic, grotesque and violent. It noted an explanation that the incorrect version of the advertisement had been played.


The complaint:

“[The man] tells the youngsters that he knows their mum and if something happens to them and they drive, 'his BALLS are in their hands'. I find the above statement to be offensive and completely unnecessary. Foul language is used on New Zealand television too many times and nobody seems to worry.”

The ASA’s verdict: Rejected

The ASA said the advertisement was an advocacy advertisement from the Government agency responsible for road safety education. It noted that in the Broadcasting Standard Authority’s list of “Unacceptable Words on Television and Radio”, “balls” was ranked 25th of 31.


The complaint:

“This is an unsafe encouragement for children to look for fun in someone else’s swimming pool. ANZ needs to stop encouraging children to look for fun in someone else’s swimming pools so that no child tries this and drowns as a result.”

The ASA’s verdict: Rejected

The ASA said the likely take-away of the advertisement would be the home loan rate and not the issue of water safety. It noted the pool was fenced and the children were asking permission to use it.


The complaint:

“I wish to complain about an add by Specsavers when a man hits a bird thinking it is a ball and starts laughing, then the advertisement goes on to show he needs glasses. I find it inappropriate and not good to hit a seagull and think it is funny. Surely they could find another way of displaying their message.”

The ASA’s verdict: Rejected

The ASA said while the man did appear to hit the bird, he did not do so out of cruelty. It also noted the bird concerned did not appear to be harmed by this incident.


The complaint:

“She has taken the plant from the traffic island to give to him. This is thieving. Council has enough trouble with people thieving the plants but this advertising is promoting thieving from public gardens.”

The ASA’s verdict: Rejected

The ASA said the advertisement relies on humour and a sense of surprise to get its message across. The chair did not consider the advertisement would encourage the theft of flowers from public gardens.


The complaint:

“While watching this programme this morning with my grandsons, aged 3 and 6, a trailer played for a programme called Red Dog. The phrase was ‘Where's my bloody shaving cream?’. I find it appalling that you would broadcast a swear word during a children's television programme.”

The ASA’s verdict: Rejected

A majority of the ASA’s complaints board agreed the word “bloody” was used in a non-threatening way, in a humorous context, and did not reach the threshold required to cause serious or widespread offence.

There was some disagreement, however, as some on the board felt it was inappropriate. The word “bloody” is 29th on the list of “Unacceptable Words on Television and Radio”.


The complaint:

“In the Chanui biscuit advertisement they claim the biscuits are scientifically proven to be the best tasting biscuits. Surely taste is a subjective thing? You may like the taste, I may not. But I cannot agree that ’best tasting biscuit’ can be scientifically proven.”

The ASA’s verdict: Rejected

The ASA said the tone of the advertisement was clearly humorous and relied on the use of hyperbole. It said the advertisement is a parody of other similar advertisements which rely on reference to “scientific testing” to endorse the product.

The latest ASA decisions can be found here.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority’s list of “Unacceptable Words on Television and Radio” can be found here. Strong language warning… obviously.

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Max is a journalist who has worked for The Star, Bleacher Report and RNZ News.
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