Costs of politically correctness are adding up

 

ADVERTISING gurus say political correctness is killing the industry, with agencies racking up big legal bills to defend their ads from nitpicking regulators.

Sydney advertising veteran Monty Noble said campaigns now needed to factor in the cost of hiring lawyers to justify their work at the Ad Standards Community Panel.

The companies still have to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees even when the panel eventually rules that no standards were breached.

Ad agencies have been warned they will be reprimanded for “discrimination or vilification” if they feature “a woman cleaning the house” such as in this Dettol disinfectant wipes ad.
Ad agencies have been warned they will be reprimanded for “discrimination or vilification” if they feature “a woman cleaning the house” such as in this Dettol disinfectant wipes ad.

In the past six months dozens of ads were cleared by the panel after a lengthy and expensive negotiation process.

Mr Noble said the prohibitive cost of legal fees forced creators to produce "bland ads to avoid being targeted".

"Just a few complaints from the public and you have to go through the process with lawyers defending the ad," said Mr Noble, who is the man behind the popular pork industry ads.

"For a country that is so easy going and loves a joke it is getting harder and harder not to tread on anyone's toes.

"We just successfully defended out latest pork ad but it took a long time and we had to factor in the cost to do so.

"It is really sad because if we keep going down this path of political correctness then advertising will just become bland and boring or we can risk be slightly offended every now and again because we are watching something makes us feel again."

This Ultratune advertisement raised issues of concern 2.1 (discrimination or vilification) and 2.2 (exploitative or degrading).
This Ultratune advertisement raised issues of concern 2.1 (discrimination or vilification) and 2.2 (exploitative or degrading).

His comments came after News Corp Australia revealed advertising's national peak body had banned portrayals in commercials of women doing housework or men struggling with fatherhood.

The industry's community panel also pulled multiple ads from screens in the past six months for apparently negatively portraying women.

Last month the organisation went a step further by amending its "Code of Ethics" to prohibit specific portrayals of gender stereotypes in ­advertisements.

A screengrab from a Dyson advertisement showing a woman “cleaning the house” — a new no-no from the ads’ code of conduct.
A screengrab from a Dyson advertisement showing a woman “cleaning the house” — a new no-no from the ads’ code of conduct.

McCann executive creative director Jerker Fagerstrom said he sympathised with the regulations. "I have two little girls," he said.

"I don't want them thinking they have to look and act a certain way."

The Ad Standards Community Panel also reprimanded iSelect for an ad in which a woman “aggressively hit a pinata”.
The Ad Standards Community Panel also reprimanded iSelect for an ad in which a woman “aggressively hit a pinata”.

But he said creators ­needed to push boundaries.

"I've been in this industry for 18 years and for me it is common sense," he said. "I would never do an ad I do not believe or cannot get behind.

A screengrab from a Sportsbet advertisement which crossed the line due to its theme of “manscaping”.
A screengrab from a Sportsbet advertisement which crossed the line due to its theme of “manscaping”.

"Advertising is built on breaking boundaries and we are always obsessed with doing something that has never been done before ­because we know that helps the client's brands."

Mr Fagerstrom said the responsibility needed to "come from within instead of having it shoved down your throat".



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