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Advertising watchdog dismisses complaints against TSB Bank over 'offensive to Australians' advertisement

Advertising watchdog dismisses complaints against TSB Bank over 'offensive to Australians' advertisement
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By David Hargreaves

Complaints made against a TSB Bank television advertisement on the grounds that it was offensive and discriminatory against Australians have been dismissed by the Advertising Standards Authority's complaints board.

The complaints related to an advert that featured a letter being typed, while the voiceover repeated the words. The dialogue and onscreen wording stated, in part: "Dear National Bank customers, One minute you’re happily banking along with your trusted organisation, then suddenly, out of the blue the Australian owners decide to call time. It could happen to anyone. Well apart from customers of TSB Bank, New Zealand’s largest independent bank. Great rates, award winning customer service and no Australians."

The word Australians was then removed using Xs on the typewriter. The dialogue continued: "Sorry, we mean no-one telling us what to do."

Complainant, T Ashmore, said: "As an Australian living permanently in New Zealand for over 10 years, with two little Kiwis, I am used to quite a bit of banter between the two countries, but I find these advertisements senseless and offensive to MY heritage."

'An odd business model to solicit customers based on race'

Duplicate complainants shared similar views and added that the advertisement would "feed anti-Australian sentiment" and was an "odd business model to solicit customers based on race".

Complaints board chairman Jenny Robson noted the complainants’ concerns that the advertisement was offensive and potentially discriminatory to Australians.

She took into account, however, that basic principle 6 of the Code for People in Advertising.made provision for humorous and satirical treatment of groups of people in advertisements, provided that it was not likely to cause serious or widespread offence, hostility, contempt, abuse or ridicule.

She said while the word Australians was crossed out,  it was clear from the inclusion of the statement: "Sorry, we mean no-one telling us what to do” that the advertiser was specifically referring to Australian-owned banks rather than Australian nationals.

Although conceding that the advertisement may have been offensive to the complainants, Robson said it was essentially light-hearted and, in her view, the reference to Australian-owned corporates in New Zealand could not be said to make a negative judgment of Australians as a group of people.

Consequently, she didn't think the advertisement reached the threshold to cause serious or widespread offence to Australians because of their national origin and, as such, was prepared with the due sense of responsibility.

Therefore, Robson ruled there was no apparent breach of the Code for People in Advertising or the Code of Ethics. Accordingly, there were no grounds for the complaint to proceed.

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Yes, the problem really is that people firmly believe they have this quasi right of not to be offended.

Flaming Galah!