Written by

Andrew Millar


March 1, 2007

Yet another charming and innocent ad has fallen to a misguided minority public opinion.


Do the people really believe toddlers would be inspired to drive a car to the beach any more than others would believe that a fly can talk with a tough guy Tenor voice, or that white goods and household appliances are not only able to distinguish between beer brands but are prepared to fight to the death for what they believe to be the last bottle in existence of their favourite brand?

It’s over reaction. It’s petty point making. It’s political correctness gone potty.

Here’s another example of a perfectly fine piece of communication being ‘pecked to death by ducks’.

Barclays in England ran a humorous ad.

It was kind of a cascading disaster ad. It began with a man being stung by a bee or wasp that had crawled into his can of drink. He runs to a nearby lake to cool his face that had begun to physically swell. The poor sod falls in. He climbs out groaning and covered in mud and weed, like a ‘B’ Grade movie creature from the Black Lagoon. The sight of him scares a group of people in a restaurant. They panic. Finally, police shoot him with a tranquilliser dart.

Having got your attention the voice over starts… “”Statistically, you’re more likely to be arrested than change your bank…””.

English Advertising Standards Authority received over 100 complaints.

The majority from people claiming the ad was ‘offensive to allergy sufferers’.

More were offended because they or people they knew suffered from allergies.

Seven viewers claimed the ad ‘frightened their children’.

Twelve viewers claimed the ad was ‘horrific’.

And seven viewers objected to the way the police photographed the man at the end of the commercial saying “it reminded them of the alleged improper soldier activity in the Iraq War”.

100 complaints from a population pool of 60 million people!

Under such a tide of intolerance, Barclays Bank pulled the ad.

And while we are on the subject of traumatising children, a poster denouncing the myth that fashion model figures are the perfect ones and we are all lesser humans, was removed from a BodyShop window. The sight of a fulsome Barbie doll apparently spooked his daughter so much, a passing shopper insisted it be taken down.


But the intolerant lunacy doesn’t stop there. The Non-Christian customers of Sears, Nordstrom, Walgreens, Kmart and many other major American chains have enough clout to cause these retailers to ban the word ‘Christmas’ from all their December advertising. Not because they objected, but because the retailers fear a backlash to the use of the word during this time of the year.


And then of course there’s the kerfuffle (to quote Andy Pipkin) about the line ‘“Where the bloody hell are you’?”

Some objected to ‘bloody hell’. Some just to ‘bloody’. Some were tolerant of ‘bloody’ but didn’t like ‘hell’. Others objected to seeing beer drinking on television! It’s OK to see people killed with automatic weapons though. It’s OK to see torture. It’s OK to see kidnap and rape during a program. But show people enjoy a cold one with friends in an ad? Too much.


A local Automobile Association has an ad pulled because it makes a passing joke about Indian Call Centres.


An ad for an ice cream shaped like a rubber thong (the footwear) received a complaint that it was encouraging sexual foot fetishes. While the ban was not upheld it cost the agency thousands of dollars to defend their work against an idiotic accusation.


Now all of these examples are just fun ads, taken the wrong way. What happens when something worthwhile gets trashed?

Consider the case of the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust in South Africa. Here a powerful message is cut because it makes us squirm and think too hard. It gets past our defences and hits the heart.

Occasionally the human mind needs a belt in the side of the head to shift comfortable complacency.

This ad was banned because it told a truth.


Be angry.

However, rather than running and hiding the agency responded. The second short spot leaves you with the hope that creativity can overcome idiocy.

Or at least, just as we go under for the last time in the swelling tides of madness, we can have the last word.