Friday 8 November 2019

Ice Cream Makes You Happy

An excellent response to a stupid complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, a ludicrous ruling from the ASA, and a milquetoast response from the manufacturer.

First, the stupid complaint about an ad outside a dairy noting "Ice Cream Makes U Happy". 

I wonder if E Fowler has ever tasted ice cream. And wouldn't kids who've walked a kilometre from school to the dairy deserve an ice cream?

The ASA upheld the complaint. Absolutely absurd, inside-the-asylum stuff:
A majority of the Complaints Board said the advertisement could undermine the health and well-being of individuals. This is because the advertisement contains an implicit claim that there is a link between ice cream and happiness. The promotion of this link could potentially undermine the health and well-being of individuals because ice cream is a high fat, high sugar food, and the desire to be happy is universal. The majority said the large size of the advertisement and its location on the outside of the store were relevant.

A minority disagreed. The minority said ice cream is widely recognised as an occasional
food, a nice treat, and the advertisement is not making any scientific or nutritional claims.

Is the advertisement socially responsible?

A majority of the Complaints Board said the advertisement was not socially responsible
because the advertisement could undermine the health and well-being of individuals.

A minority disagreed. The minority said the advertisement was socially responsible and did not undermine the health and well-being of individuals. 
This is absolutely nuts.

No sane industry self-regulatory body could select members that would reach this decision.

The ASA takes a lot of heat from public health campaigners who'll argue that industry self-regulation is inadequate and that the state needs to do it directly. It looks like the ASA is so worried about that kind of prospect that it jumps to ban claims that ice cream makes you happy. And I fail to see the point of industry self-regulation in that case. If it were all given to the Chief Censor to manage, at least the bootprint of the State would be visible in these kinds of decisions.

Christian Bonnevie's take over at Stuff is excellent:
You would think that Unilever, the maker of Streets ice creams and the billboard at the centre of this grand conspiracy, would stand up for happiness. But alas, all we get is the usual corporate waffle about "how important it is for New Zealanders to eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight and to look after their mental wellbeing".

So bland. So wet. The classic "make it go away" comment that probably passed through a dozen lawyers before being sent to media.

Where's the passion for your product, Unilever? Do you actually believe in it? You were presented with an opportunity to show some personality and stand up for the average Kiwi ice-cream lover. Instead, you quietly file an appeal and talk about being committed to promoting mental and physical health.

We don't care. We just want good ice cream. Because it makes us happy.

It's a bit unfair to pick on Unilever, as their response has become the sad and predictable default setting of big corporates in recent years. Much of this is because in an outrage-fuelled society they can only see risk, not opportunity.

It's even understandable given the penchant of faceless bureaucrats to come up with such consistently stupid rulings and not even have the stones to put their names to them.

But that's why it's even more important for businesses to stand up to authorities like the ASA, loudly. Otherwise they won't just be banned from advertising happiness, they'll be taxed even more to deliver it.

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