Ads draw protests and street cred

21:23, Jun 16 2012
Hell Pizza
HOT HOT HOT: Hell Pizza's ad proclaiming: 'For a limited time. A bit like Jesus' drew the most complaints in 2011.

A man acting like a dog, another who sticks a knife into a toaster, and a naked woman down on the farm all drew the wrath of the public last year.

But it was a hot cross bun with the slogan "For a limited time. A bit like Jesus" that really fired people up.

The Advertising Standards Authority has released a list of the most complained about ads of 2011, and topping it again is a Hell Pizza campaign, which attracted 178 complaints.

Those offended said its hot cross bun billboard in the leadup to Easter was "deliberately inflammatory and akin to blasphemy", and inappropriate for tourists and children.

But the authority's complaints board did not uphold the complaints, saying the degree of black humour would have been appreciated by many.

It was the fourth time the company's adverts were the most complained about since 2006. Hell director Stu McMullin said that although the company did not set out to offend, making the list was a good thing, because it showed people were talking about the ads.


"Our intention is to be clever and provocative, and a little bit irreverent. And we get a bit of a laugh. It's so serious out there at the moment, so much doom and gloom in the market. If you can make people laugh, that's awesome."

Another ad to feature was a TV commercial for "Down Boy", a self-lowering toilet seat. It showed a man on his knees acting like a dog. Complainants said the ad undermined parental efforts to teach children about respecting both males and females, and that if an ad showed a woman acting in the same way it would never get to air.

But the board did not uphold the complaints, saying the ad was merely satire of the age-old conundrum of men leaving up the toilet seat.

However, a Vodafone ad featuring a man trying to get toast out of a toaster with a knife was found to breach advertising standards because it showed a potentially dangerous situation and encouraged a disregard for safety. The board also found a billboard for America's Next Top Model, which showed a naked woman in a farm scene, was not "pornographic" as some complainants argued, and unlikely to cause widespread offence.

Canterbury University marketing expert Ekant Veer said having a controversial ad gave a bit of street-cred when it matched the brand it was promoting. "You don't call yourself Hell Pizza if you're going to be the nice guys. They're going to attract a certain type of customer, and if its ads are controversial that's almost expected, if not encouraged, by their market."

But he warned some organisations needed to think twice before cooking up a saucy idea and serving it to the public. "You take an example where someone who has a clean-cut image, does something edgy and dark, and that can damage the brand because people who like it are going to turn away.

"When Tiger Woods admitted his affairs, he had a very clean image. He was a hero to many, so it really damaged him as a brand. It took a lot of time to repair that trust."


Hell Pizza billboard featuring hot cross bun and the words "For a limited time. A bit like Jesus". 178 complaints not upheld.

TV ad for Yours & Mine KY gel showing a couple in bed discussing the effects of the gel, depicted visually by a ballerina being lifted into the air. No grounds for the 30 complaints to proceed.

TV ad for Down Boy where man acts like a dog, catching a biscuit in his mouth. 25 complaints not upheld.

TV ad for Vodafone where man sticks knife in toaster. 17 complaints upheld.

Bus shelter and website ads for Powershop, featuring pictures of Saddam Hussein, Richard Nixon, Che Guevara and Kim Jong-Il, captioned "Same Power Different Attitude". 15 complaints partly settled, partly not upheld.

Top Chef: Just Desserts billboard showing a cake iced with the words "Backstabbing Slut". 14 complaints upheld.

Act Party newspaper ad containing the headline "Fed up with pandering to Maori radicals?" No grounds for the 12 complaints to proceed.

TV ad for Lynx showing men looking distressed when women came close and wet patches appeared under their armpits. 11 complaints not upheld.

Trailer for the movie Paranormal Activity 3, showing children playing, then screaming and a black image appearing. No grounds for nine complaints to proceed.

Billboard for America's Next Top Model featuring a naked woman on a farm. Eight complaints not upheld.

Sunday Star Times