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					                                                                               09/130


                                       DECISION

                                 Meeting 15 April 2009

Complaint 09/130

                       Complainants: C. & P. Stadler and Others
                       Advertisement: Max Fashions Ltd

Complaint: The advertisement displayed on the side of a bus, showed a long-
haired woman dressed in black sitting astride a person lying on their back in what
appeared to be a dried wheat field. That person is wearing a suit of armour. The
woman looks seductively at the viewer.

Wording in the advertisement says: “truly, madly, DEEPLY Max”.

Complainants, C. & P. Stadler, said:

“Type: Other
Where: Welcome to Max.
Truly, Madly, Deeply collection arriving now. Keep checking in store as we roll out the
new collection in the weeks ahead.

TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY 2009 COLLECTION

Picture and text seen on the side of a bus

Who: Max Fashions
Product: fashion collection ad

Complaint -
We find this advertisement above offensive, immoral, vulgar and inappropriate. To be
confronted with it on the side of a bus on the way to Auckland last Saturday evening
made us feel violated and angry.

Please, take it off circulation.
It is against good taste to say the least.
thank you.”

Duplicate Complainants, F. Coventry and C. Mountain expressed similar views
about the advertisement and said it contained “blatant sexual innuendo”.
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The Chairman ruled that the following provisions were relevant:

Code of Ethics

    Basic Principle 4: All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of
    social responsibility to consumers and to society.

   Rule 5: Offensiveness - Advertisements should not contain anything which in
   the light of generally prevailing community standards is likely to cause serious or
   widespread offence taking into account the context, medium, audience and
   product (including services).

The Agency, Special Group Ltd, responded also on behalf of the Advertiser,
Max Fashions Ltd, saying:

“My name is R. Jack and I'm the creative director of advertising and design agency
Special Group Ltd.

I'm responding on behalf of our client Max Fashions Ltd to a complaint submitted to
you about a recent bus-side advertisement (09/130),

The sections of the ASA the bus-side is said to have breached are...

Code of Ethics - Basic Principle 4
Code of Ethics - Rule 5

Basic Principle 4: All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social
responsibility to consumers and to society.

Max has been operating for 23 years over which time it prides itself in behaving in a
socially responsible way to represent the needs, wants and lifestyles of the target
audience. In fact Max's social responsibility strategy focuses on the Max Foundation
for NZ Women www.maxfoundation.co.nz an inclusive, inspiring and generous
foundation that is targeted at women in NZ. Thus with a target audience of well over
200,000 in their demographic, it is no surprise to us and Max that complaints about
their advertising is limited to a very small amount of people.

Rule 5: Offensiveness - Advertisements should not contain anything which in the light
of generally prevailing community standards is likely to cause serious or widespread
offence taking into account the context, medium, audience and product (including
services).

We would debate the accusation of 'serious and widespread offence'. This implies a
large (or vocal) group of people taking a position on this advertisement. We don't
think 3 people constitute serious or widespread offence. Being a mass public
medium, bus-sides have made this advertisement publicly visible. The small number
of complaints suggests that 'serious and widespread offence' has not been caused.

It's certainly not our intention to cause offence to anyone. On behalf of our client
Max, we are presenting a campaign to their target audience (women 18 - 35) in a
way that is in tune with the target market's lifestyle. All our communications are
designed to appeal to this urban, mature, street-savvy group of people. Max have
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conducted extensive research to identify the common values of this group of people,
so that they can talk to them in a relevant, attention-grabbing and non gratuitous way.

Please let me know if I can provide any more information for the Complaints Board.”


Deliberation

The Complaints Board perused the relevant correspondence and viewed the
advertisement. It noted the view expressed by Complainants, C. and P. Sadler,
that the advertisement was “offensive, immoral, vulgar and inappropriate”,
particularly due to the highly visible manner in which it had been published.
Duplicate Complainant’s, F. Coventry and C. Mountain, expressed similar concerns.

The Chairman directed the Complaints Board to consider the complaint with
reference to the Code of Ethics, Basic Principle 4 and Rule 5.

In making its ruling the Complaints Board was required to consider whether the
advertisement had been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to
consumers and to society as required by Basic Principle 4, and/or whether, in the
light of generally prevailing community standards, it was likely to cause serious or
widespread offence, taking into account the context, medium, audience and product,
as contained in Rule 5.

The Complaints Board noted, in particular, that the advertisement had been
displayed on the side of a bus, where it was visible to all members of society, over
and above the target audience of 18 to 30 year old women. It noted that the product
was fashionable clothing, and the content of the advertisement had been designed
to appeal to an “urban, mature, street-savvy group of people”, the values of whom
had been researched by the Agency, Special Group Ltd, in the preparation of the
advertisement.

In the majority view, the advertisement did not reach the threshold to be said to
cause serious or widespread offence in the light of generally prevailing community
standards, the imagery being suggestive, rather than overt, and thereby it met the
requirements of Rule 5 of the Code of Ethics. Furthermore, the majority said the
advertisement met the due sense of social responsibility required by Basic Principle
4 and was not in breach of that provision.

A minority disagreed, as in its view the depiction with the wording, published on the
side of a bus, crossed the line and did not observe the due sense of social
responsibility required by Basic Principle 4. Furthermore, the minority said it would
be likely to cause serious offence, and thereby breach Rule 5 of the Code of Ethics.

However, in accordance with the majority view, the Complaints Board ruled to not
uphold the complaint.


Decision: Complaint Not Upheld

				
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