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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The "deeply offended"

The Advertising Standards Authority has published its annual report into the most complained-about ads. A new language seems to have grown up around public apology. According to the BBC this morning the ASA apologised for the fact that ads for Trident gum that used voices speaking in a Caribbean accent could be "deeply offensive" and were guilty of perpetuating stereotypes. I tend to reserve my use of "deeply offensive" for people driving across the speed bumps down my road at a child-endangering 50 mph or the failure of the South African government to openly condemn the catastrophe in Zimbabwe. Even the guy who walked towards me urinating in the N1 centre the other week was pathetic more than offensive. "Deeply offensive" is grown-up code for "I'll get my Dad on you."

The worst I feel about a TV advert is "that's a bit irritating", particularly since I know from experience that every TV ad has to be signed off at every stage of its production by people whose job it is to avoid our hurt feelings. Advertising agencies are selling their gum to Afro-Caribbean people just as hard as they're selling it to me and my Greek, Asian and Russian neighbours. I believe them when they say that they consulted widely before making this ad. All TV adverts perpetuate stereotypes. They're thirty seconds long. If they didn't perpetuate stereotypes they wouldn't make much sense.