Wellington 'gay-o-meter' ad offensive

02:54, Feb 19 2010

A billboard in central Wellington featuring a "gay-o-meter" graph linking homophobia to homosexuality was socially irresponsible and likely to cause serious offence, the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled.

The advertisement for the online polling site haveyoursay.co.nz, which was displayed on the corner of Cuba and Webb streets, consisted of a large graph titled "gay-o-meter", with the axes labelled "degree of homosexuality" and "degree of homophobia".

A diagonal line running between the axes drew a correlation between the two.

"Considering that Cuba Street is the city's apparent 'arts and bohemian' precinct, and that Wellington attempts to espouse an egalitarian and accepting vibe, I feel that his advertsiement is incredibly small minded and offensive," a complainant wrote to the authority.

The advertiser responded that it did not intend the billboard to be offensive to the gay and lesbian community, and apologised for causing offence.

"We were simply seeking to stimulate debate and awareness around the reality that some of the anti-gay rhetoric is generated by people struggling to come to terms with their own sexuality.

"Whilst not being gay myself I have certainly been on the receiving end of this type of behaviour and believe it would benefit society as a whole as well as the individual struggling with their sexuality for this behaviour to be seen for what it is."

The authority found the advertisement breached ethical codes and basic advertising principles.

The advertisement was in a highly visible position, was "likely to cause serious offence or widespread offence", and was "socially irresponsible".

The complaint was upheld.