Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated of which one was Not upheld and one Upheld.
A radio ad for Brunel Supplies heard in October 2012 on Palm FM featured a character speaking in a mock Chinese accent. The ad began with the character who answered the phone by saying "Brunel surprise". The caller asked "Isn't that Brunel Supplies" to which the character answered "Yes sir, Brunel surprise, sirry irriot". The ad also included the phrase "... Why you no bruddy risten ...".
A listener challenged whether the ad:
1. was offensive, because it featured an outdated stereotype; and
2. was unsuitable for broadcast at a time when children might be listening, because it included swearing.
1. The broadcaster, Palm FM, said the concept of the commercial was supplied by the client and was based on their customers having joked about them sounding as if they were saying "Brunel Surprise" when they answered the phone. The concept was linked back to the original concept used by Benny Hill. As this was also heavily linked to their target demographic, men and women over 40 years of age, it was decided this would be a good storyline to develop and work with, if successful, across various products.
They said the first commercial in the series aired in late July and featured kitchens and laminate flooring and no complaints were received until they were notified by the ASA. They said it was never their intention to offend with what had genuinely been recorded as a funny innuendo type commercial with nostalgic links to the past.
They believed the ad was justified as the creative had been the advertiser's most successful to date: the sales figures for those products, which had not been advertised anywhere else, had been outstanding.
The advertiser reiterated the broadcaster's response stating this was their most successful campaign to date and they had not received any complaints in the three months since it had first aired. They said the theme was aimed at the typical British sense of humour rather than an outdated stereotype and should be considered postmodern irony. The advertiser said they had not intended to offend and the character had no actual relevance except to gain attention through comedy. They said the ad was used to target specific product ranges to measure success which could be demonstrated in the growth of sales of the relevant products.
2. Palm FM said they were happy to remove the word 'bruddy' from current and future ads, but overall they felt the concept still had a place on air. The broadcaster said the ad was aired between 7.30 am and 6 pm, four times per day on alternate days.
1. Not upheld
The ASA acknowledged that many adults would be aware of similar parodies from the 1970s and 80s and the ad was intended to be a comic play on the advertiser's name. We noted the ad did not feature harmful discriminatory behaviour, derogatory stereotypes or negative cultural references. Because the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, we concluded it was not in breach of the Code.
On this point we investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility), 4.2 4.2 Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. and 4.8 4.8 Advertisements must not condone or encourage harmful discriminatory behaviour or treatment. Advertisements must not prejudice respect for human dignity. (Harm and offence) but did not find it in breach.
We noted, due to the timing of the ad, it was likely to be heard by children before and after school. We noted the character's remark, "Why you no bruddy risten" in the overall context of the ad which was likely to be understood by children as a made-up word to disguise the word 'bloody'. We considered that although the word 'bloody' was a mild swear word, it was socially irresponsible to air a variation of it in an untargeted medium when children were likely to be listening.
On this point, the ad breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility) and 32.3 32.3 Relevant timing restrictions must be applied to advertisements that, through their content, might harm or distress children of particular ages or that are otherwise unsuitable for them. (Scheduling of Television and Radio Advertisements).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Brunel Road Timber Ltd not to use the word bruddy or similar variations in their ads.