Fat Trudy not seriously offensive, says ad board

01:43, Jan 31 2009

A complaint about a light-hearted discussion of names in a television cheese advertisement has not been upheld by the Advertising Standards Complaints Board.

But the board was divided, with a minority feeling that references to Trudy being a fat girl's name was a negative stereotype in the advertisement, and would be reasonably likely to cause serious offence.

The advertisement for Mainland Special Reserve cheese shows a group of friends gathered to discuss various issues while they enjoy some Mainland cheese and a glass of wine.

One of the guests admits to liking the name Warren, another suggests a name should never have more than three syllables and yet another remarks: "I know a Felix and that's not good".

Someone suggests "Trudy" to which a male guest responds: "No, that's a fat girl's name."

Guests reply with: "Oh, oh, you can't say that" and "It's fatist". The male continues: "What! I knew a Trudy at school - she may lose weight but her name never will."

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The advertisement ends with the graphic: "Mainland Special Reserve, the stuff friends share."

Complainant A Thomas believed jokes about fat people were as much discrimination as jokes about race or other disabilities.

"Had the joke been about a person, eg in a wheelchair, it would have been in obvious bad taste and discriminatory.

"The tone of the joke is a serious put-down of a `fat girl' named Trudy. It is very hurtful, unkind and discriminatory towards people who may be overweight, and also people called Trudy," A Thomas said, asking for it to removed and a public apology made.

Other complainants shared similar views.

Both the advertising agency, Colenso BBDO, and the Television Commercial Approvals Bureau (TVCAB) defended the advertisement, and neither thought it breached basic board principles relating to stereotypes, humour and satire (Principle 6).

TVCAB said it regretted that some complainants were offended by the use of the name "Trudy", but, as the name had been a random choice with no intention of actually referring to any real person, believed the complaint should not be upheld.

The complaints board said that the content of the advertisement, where it appeared to make fun of a person's vulnerability, was somewhat lacking in taste.

A minority on the board thought that the negative stereotype in the advertisement would be reasonably likely to cause serious offence.

But the majority thought that while the comments in the advertisement were of questionable taste, a level of humour was intended, provision for which was contained in its code of principles.

They said this prevented the advertisement from reaching the threshold to be likely to cause serious offence in the light of generally prevailing community standards, and ruled that it was not in breach of the board's principles.

NZPA