Monday, 19 April 2010

Hollard Hopes

A consumer complaint was recently lodged against a Hollard Insurance billboard advertisement. The billboard features the image of a man holding a dog and posing next to a mirror. His shadow reflects the image of a cabaret dancer and is accompanied by the words “We get you”. This is one of a series of advertisements for this insurance company in which various characters are portrayed with their own aspirations or fantasies (including the advertisement accompanying this post).

The complainant submitted that the advertisement is discriminatory and offensive as it stereotypes gay men as being effeminate and aspiring to be drag queens.

In response, Hollard submitted that it had received positive feedback about the advertisement and that no research studies on the campaign had indicated that consumers found it offensive or discriminatory. It submitted that the “We get you” copy shows acceptance, rather than prejudice and that the advertising was tongue-in-cheek and humorous.

In determining whether the advertisement was discriminatory, the Directorate referred to a prior, similar complaint and found that the mere depiction of a characteristic (in this case, homosexuality) cannot in itself be discriminatory as envisaged by the Code of Advertising Practice. It was pointed out that in order for a finding of discrimination to be found, the advertisement would have to exclude people based on their sexual orientation. In this case there was no evidence of any benefits being withheld due to the sexual orientation of the subject and, indeed, an implication of acceptance and understanding is represented by the “We get you” copy.

In its assessment of whether the advertisement is offensive, the Directorate found it pertinent that South African culture does not view homosexuality as disreputable and so there is no reason why the hypothetical reasonable person would view the advertisement as “anything more than a light-hearted depiction of the potential aspirations of the depicted character”. In light of this and the fact that the advertisement is not discriminatory, the Directorate found that the advertisement is not likely to cause the type of offence prohibited by the Code and the complaint was dismissed.

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