Just before Christmas last year, one person complained that a South African TV commercial for Chicken Licken was offensive and the ad was duly banned.
The advert was quite witty and made for a good news story which was picked up by major newswire services such as the Associated Press and AFP. News that SA's new regulator, the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) had deemed the ad offensive
popped up in New Zealand, Australia, America, India, and the UK. In South Africa, of course, social media homed in on the ad and it went ballistically viral.
So, if the ARB had thought about the implication of their ban and just ignored that one complaint the ad campaign would have run for a few more weeks and given the declining number of viewers who actually watch commercial breaks on TV these days,
perhaps a few hundred thousand viewers would have seen it. Instead, in South Africa alone the ad was viewed by millions of people. Quite possibly hundreds times more than would have seen the ad on television.
So, instead of protecting the sensitivities of those few people who might have found the ad offensive, banning it simply compounded the very problem the ARB was trying to solve.
South Africa's advert censor, the Advertising Standards Authority', has gone bankrupt and is being replaced by another. The ASA went into liquidation at the end of September after years of mismanagement and alleged financial impropriety.
The Advertising Regulatory Board will take over as the advert censor with a new membership and staff structure. It will be headed by former ASA legal counsel Gail Schimmel and the organisation will be funded by the advertising industry.
The brand and marketing industry is being asked to rally around the new organisation. Two other industry bodies, The Association for Communication & Advertising (ACA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), have also lent their support
to the new ARB.
This years Christmas advert from supermarket Iceland, with partners Greenpeace, is a political campaigning advert about the ecological downsides of the production of palm oil.
The advert features a cartoon orangutan who has fled the destruction of the rainforest to hide in a little girl's bedroom. The little girl takes up the cause to protect the habitat of orangutans whilst Icelands says that it is removing palm oil
from its own brand products.
Clearcast is a group funded by TV broadcasters and presents itself as experts about advert censorship, the advert censor ASA, and ASA's rules. Clearcast pre-vets all broadcast adverts and advises about compliance with ASA rules.
Clearcast originally advised that the Iceland advert was too political, as there rules governing political adverts on TV. In particular:
An advertisement contravenes the prohibition on political advertising if it is: An advertisement which is inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature.
There was a bit of a to do on social media, presumably thinking that the ban on political advertising should not apply to environmental political campaigners. The advert ended up noting nearly 5 million views on YouTubeand 15 million on Facebook,
so Iceland will be well pleased.