ASA investigating Beechies TV ad campaign

The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) has received 30 formal complaints about the controversial Beechies  “Too Good Not To Share” television advertising campaign, ASA Communications Manager Corne Koch confirmed today.

Most of the complainants complained that the advertisement was offensive, that children were exposed to it, and that it stereotyped gender, she said. She said the ASA was investigating the complaints and would publish a ruling once the investigation was completed.

Family Policy Institute (FPI) director Errol Naidoo has called for a national boycott of Beechies products after Natela Importers, distributors of Beechies products in South Africa, defended the TV advertisement as well as content on the Beechies website which suggests that drunkeness and casual sex are amusing and cool. In a letter to Naidoo, in response to his complaint about the Beechies advertisement and website content, Natela Importers managing director Vered Mann took the line that the Beechies communications were appealing to youth who “appreciate pushing boundaries” ,  the TV strip club scene was “tastefully executed”, and that they were not breaking any laws.

In an alert on the FPI website, Naidoo says: “The Beechies advertising campaign is inspired by the MTV ideology that teens must break free from traditional moral codes and determine their own sexuality – which is, “if it feels good do it!”  It appears as if the sewers of foreign inspired filth has directed its attention at SA to corrupt our youth and entrench a godless philosophy that destroys the lives of many young people.

“You and I must act against this attack on Biblical Christian values & defend the only moral foundation that preserves & strengthens the family & guarantees a healthy & prosperous nation. I am therefore calling for a nationwide boycott of Beechies products until Natela cancels  its advertising campaign that demeans women & promotes drunkenness & debauchery.”

He urged Christians to wrtie to Natela Importers maketing manager Richard Papo at richard@natela.co.za to express their concerns about the Beechies campaign, and to copy Natela Importers MD, Vered Mann at vered@natela.co.za & jirilanca@yahoo.com.

Asked by Gateway News to comment on a view that the Beechies website content that treats drunkenness and casual sex as amusing,  was unacceptable given South Africa’s serious problems of HIV Aids, rape, sexual abuse of women, alcoholism, crime and divorce, Koch said: “The ASA is a re-active body and only deals with complaints about content of advertising. The Code is not prescriptive as to what kind of information should be placed on websites.”

She also pointed out that when the ASA Directorate investigated complaints it was guided by the Code of Advertising Practice. She referred Gateway News to certain previous rulings which, inter alia, stated that advertising should not offend public sensitivities unless it was reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom; and that the fact that advertising was offensive to some did not necessarily warrant its removal. Another point made was that the ASA’s approach had to be objective, and the advertising had to be evaluated from the viewpoint of the hypothetical reasonable person who was neither hyper-critical nor hyper-sensitive.

An excerpt from another previous ruling provides insight into the ASA’s approach to gender stereotyping, as follows: “Clause 3.5 of Section II states, inter alia, that gender stereotyping or negative gender portrayal shall not be permitted unless such portrayal is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.

“Clause 4.19 of Section I defines gender stereotyping as ‘…advertising that portrays a person or persons of a certain gender in a manner that exploits, objectifies or demeans’.

“…the Directorate regards the following factors as relevant to an enquiry into the objectification of women:

• Product relevance;
• Active versus passive sexuality;
• Overt versus subtle sexuality; and
• The dismembering of the image of a woman to show only her sexual parts”.

Gateway News will report in full on the ASA’s findings when these are published.

Readers who have commented on previous reports (report 1 , report 2 ) on the Beechies advertising campaign have labelled it as offensive and harmful but have not been unanimous about the best Christian response to the campaign.

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