A TV ad for Boost, an energy provider, seen in February 2018, promoted a prepayment energy smart meter. The ad began with a woman holding a torch whilst trying to turn on her light switch. The next scene featured an Asian man standing in a Kung Fu stance in a yellow jumpsuit similar to the jumpsuits worn by Bruce Lee. On-screen yellow text stated “BOOST LEE IN ‘FINGER OF FURY’” accompanied by Chinese text which translated to “finger of fury”. Smaller on-screen text stated “MMXVIII Bruce Lee Rights/TM Bruce Lee Enterprises”. The man screamed and held his phone out saying “Tap me”. The woman then also screamed and performed a Kung Fu action and tapped the phone. The next scene showed the man teaching the woman how to perform Kung Fu actions whilst saying, “It’s like a finger pointing away to the bulb. Concentrate on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory. Top up your power anytime, anywhere with Boost pay as you go energy. Don’t think, switch”.
The complainant, who believed the ad featured outdated racial stereotypes, challenged whether the ad was offensive and condoned harmful discriminatory behaviour and was scheduled inappropriately.
Ovo Energy Ltd t/a Boost said that the ad was created in collaboration with Bruce Lee’s estate to ensure the content respected his legacy and represented an accurate portrayal of Bruce Lee. They said that they chose to align their brand with Bruce Lee because of his values which reflected their aim of empowering customers to control their energy.
Boost said that the ad made clear references to Bruce Lee and the characters portrayed in his films rather than a generic stereotype of a Chinese Kung Fu expert. They highlighted that Bruce Lee was renowned for more than his physical capabilities such as his philosophies for controlling anger and frustration. They said that the ad equally focused on managing the frustration of energy blackouts and pay as you go energy instead of martial arts expertise.
Boost said they intentionally included features of the ad which viewers would understand were a representation of Bruce Lee, such as naming the character “Boost Lee” and using similar language and appearance. They said that they researched with consumer groups to ensure the connection was clear and worked with Bruce Lee’s estate, including his daughter, to ensure the character was a respectful and accurate representation.
Boost said that there were a variety of representations of martial arts in culture at the time of Bruce Lee and in popular culture today. They disputed the notion that Bruce Lee represented a racial stereotype that all Chinese people were Kung Fu experts.
Boost said that they believed it was reasonable to schedule the ad during the daytime because it did not feature any content that was inappropriate or offensive for children. They said there were movies shown during the day time which featured martial arts such as Kung Fu Panda and The Karate Kid.
Clearcast did not believe Bruce Lee appeared like a racial stereotype. They confirmed that Boost had approached Bruce Lee’s estate to confirm that they were happy with the portrayal of him. They said that the character closely resembled Bruce Lee and the spoof of his Kung Fu character was clear. They said that as there was no contact violence in the ad, a time restriction was unnecessary.
The ASA noted that the ad featured a character named “Boost Lee” wearing a yellow jumpsuit, teaching martial arts. The character was seen performing different Kung Fu stances while screaming and encouraging the female character to mimic those actions. We considered that viewers would understand that the character was intended to resemble Bruce Lee.
We understood the complainant was concerned that the comedic portrayal of Bruce Lee in that manner, including the use of an exaggerated Chinese accent with Ku Fung screams perpetuated the racial stereotype that all Chinese people were Kung Fu experts and spoke in a similar style. However, we noted that the ad did not contain any general references to Chinese people and therefore considered that viewers were likely to understand that the ad was specifically parodying Bruce Lee rather than Chinese people generally. We considered the ad was likely to be interpreted as light-hearted and humorous and therefore was unlikely to encourage the mocking or belittling of Chinese people.
We further considered that because the ad did not contain anything derogatory and did not mock Chinese people, the content of the ad was suitable for children to see and therefore did not require a scheduling restriction.
We concluded that the ad did not condone or encourage harmful discriminatory behaviour or treatment of Chinese people and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. We also concluded that the ad was scheduled appropriately.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 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) 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), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.