I was a bit annoyed by the news that Heinz had chosen to pull a television advert following 200 particularly stupid complaints to the ASA. Apparently the complainants wrote (presumably in pencil, in a mixture of capital and lower-case letters, on the back of an old copy of the News of the World) that it was “offensive” and “inappropriate to see two men kissing”. A few even went for the “Will somebody please think of the children!” approach, claiming that it had forced them to answer awkward questions from kids- questions such as, presumably, “who on earth would want to buy flavoured mayonnaise?”.
Today, though, I’ve realised that this is actually a golden opportunity. If all it requires is 200 nonsensical complaints, just imagine the power that a small but committed group of people could exercise. One short letter writing campaign, and:
- No more Eastenders / Coronation Street / Emmerdale / Neighbours
- No more Big Brother
- Pretty much the entire BBC3 schedule destroyed in one fell swoop
- The new “let’s have a conversation” Channel 5 news? Gone, gone away
- Living TV? Not any more
- And so on
In short, the world could be made exactly 147.24% better (and yes, I can prove this with a calculator) in less than a week. Marvellous. If anyone’s interested, I could even knock up a template letter: Dear XXX, I consider your programme, XXXX, very offensive. What if a (parakeet/armchair/plank of alder) had seen it? I could have been forced to answer awkward questions about (mockneys/Stockholm Syndrome/the BBC’s commissioning policy/the merits of viewer interaction in a news programme/idiots). Yours sincerely, XXXX.
Incidentally, in case anyone isn’t in the habit of trawling the ASA’s complaints and adjudications pages looking for news stories, I do recommend a visit. The pettiness of some complaints and almost incredibly serious tone of the adjudications can be fantastic to behold. Example complaint:
A TV ad, for the Nicer Dicer, stated “Love to cook but hate the time and hassle of preparation and cleanup? You need the Nicer Dicer from JML. Look how perfectly it dices this tomato. And these onions are chopped in no time with no tears. … A viewer, who believed food to be diced in the product had to be sliced beforehand, challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that the product could dice whole foods.
And the ASA’s response? They took said product to the ASA-super-testing-kitchen-cave and put it through its paces:
The ASA tested the Nicer Dicer. We noted that, while the product was capable of dealing with whole foods, it did not dice the food into cube shapes but merely seemed to slice it; that result was the same for food cut in half. We noted that, for the product to dice food into cube shapes, food would first have to be sliced into roughly the thickness of the desired cube.
Oh no! Surely not. But do go on..
We considered that the composition of the ad, particularly the name ‘Nicer Dicer’, the claims “Love to cook but hate the time and hassle of preparation and cleanup” and “Look how perfectly it dices this tomato”, accompanied by an image of a tomato cut in cube shapes, implied that whole fruit and vegetables, or at least food cut in half, could be diced into cube shapes. Because it could not, and because it did not show that food had to be sliced before it could be diced, we considered that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading advertising), 5.2.2 (Implications) and 5.2.3 (Qualifications).
Fantastic. For the full, thrilling saga, click here, or for gory details of an advert featuring “Colonel Sanders, grinning maniacally whilst holding a chicken by the legs in one hand and a kitchen knife pointing directly at it in the other”, here.