Allow more freedom for humorous advertising
AS IS by now well-known, Vodacom recently changed its corporate colours from bluegreen to red. This irked Cell C, who use the colour red prominently. In an advertisement in response to this, Cell C used a blue car that was partly resprayed red. The advert then says that “it takes more than a lick of paint to become SA’s number one network”.
Vodacom subsequently lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) alleging that this and other parts of the advertisement contravened the ASA’s code, among others, as it was disparaging and misleading.
In coming to its decision the ASA referred to an earlier ruling in a dispute between Kentucky Fried Chicken and Chicken Licken. The facts, briefly, were that the commercial began with a person saying, “Howdy. We got a letter from the Colonel’s son.” The Colonel’s son explains that his father makes him eat the same thing every day when all he wants is to try some hot wings. Someone says, “Colonel Daddy’s about to be served.”
The people involved move to a fort where they find the Colonel, a person dressed in military garb with a large moustache, attempting to light a cannon but instead one of the people stubs out the fuse with his fingers. The Colonel is then given a plate of Chicken Licken’s hot wings, whereupon the Colonel’s son arrives, together with a woman who also has a beard, and while the Colonel is eating, the son says: “You’ve been served.”
In the KFC case the ASA said that the different interests of the parties must be balanced. For Chicken Licken there was the freedom to express itself through its marketing campaigns. KFC, in turn, could expect its competitors not to denigrate its products or advertisements. The ASA then proceeded to say that the right of Chicken Licken must give way to its obligation not to discredit its major competitor’s product or advertisement. In the Cell C matter the ASA concluded that the advertisement was indeed disparaging.
To evaluate the ASA’s judgments in both instances one needs look no further than the Laugh It Off v South African Breweries decision of the Constitutional Court.
A suggestion in SA that a company has discriminatory labour practices is a serious allegation, yet it was allowed in the Laugh If Off case even without proof of labour practices.
It would seem, by comparison, that to ban a woman with a beard might infringe our constitutional right to humorous advertisements. Maybe it is time for the ASA to be “served”.