OPINION: How far is too far in advertising? Merv Dore of Independent Forklifts is finding out. According to the Advertising Standards Authority anyway.
Images on the back of the company's vans are too risque, it says. They show scantily clad women in front of a forklift and carry the words: You know you're not the first ... But does that really matter? Used forklifts.
The vans have been around for three years, but one M Robertson was offended enough to complain to the authority. Which upheld his/her complaint, on the grounds that the images sexualised and objectified women.
A decision Mr Dore is to appeal against. Or ignore altogether. But we need people like Merv Dore. And we need people like M Robertson, whoever he/she is. People who push the boundaries. And people who push back.
Mr Dore's campaign does sexualise and objectify women, particular with the accompanying words. Yet it's appropriate to his target market - men.
And even he recognises that. A more explicit image has been withdrawn. He says however, that there's no difference between his images and Dan Carter modelling Jockey underwear.
Both could be viewed as soft porn, but as the authority pointed out, Dan actually wears the jocks, the young women don't drive the forklifts.
The other valid point the authority made was that the vans are mobile and public. Public to the minds of young boys and girls.
Yet the campaign has drawn only one complaint in three years, and while Patricia Bartlett (she of 1970s and '80s Society for Promotion of Community Standards fame) would be rolling in her grave, there are numerous similar examples Mr Dore could point to today. He's hardly breaking new ground - just pushing the limit.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect here, and the thing that will most annoy the complainant, is the lack of power the authority has. It can request an offending party withdraw an advertisement, but the advertiser doesn't have to. Invariably the advertiser does though, because a self-regulating agency like that is better than having some government agency take over.
Even Hell Pizza obeys rulings. The more advertisers who ignore findings the more likely the policing will change.
I anticipated more negative feedback to Mr Dore's campaign after our coverage yesterday. There was sur prisingly little.
This posting best summed up the general feeling: "It's not offensive, it's just kind of dumb, always makes me roll my eyes. Boys."
- The Timaru Herald