Editorial: PC corner turned?

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 10/07/2013

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Merv Dore is a bit of a lad. A Kiwi bloke if you will.

So the two complaints that have been upheld against his company by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) won't worry him a bit. Because hey, any publicity is good publicity.

And, actually, it doesn't cost him a cent. Because his target market is men.

In case you missed it, Merv Dore is general manager of Independent Forklifts, and on the back of three of the firm's 20 vans are images of scantily clad women with forklifts in the background.

The words say: "You know you're not the first … But does that really matter? Used forklifts".

Humorous? Yes, to some people. Denigrating of women, objectifying them as sex objects? Yes again, to some people. Including the ASA, which says its humour provision doesn't wash in this case. Too sexist by far.

So it's now upheld a second complaint (by two individuals), following a similar ruling in February.

And told Merv Dore to remove the offending advertisement. Again.

And he will. In his own good time. It costs money, you see, and he'll pay the $2000 a pop when the signwriting needs replacing, not before.

Which shows how toothless the ASA is.

The danger here, if there is one, is that Mr Dore jeopardises a self-regulatory system in favour of a state-imposed one. Most advertisers withdraw ads when complaints about them are upheld. Even Hell Pizza. But then, for most advertisers that's a pretty easy task.

They simply cancel their radio, TV, newspaper, magazine or website ad booking, or amend the ad, also easy because they've been created on computer. Bit harder with a billboard, or signwriting on the back of a van.

Is that an excuse? No, not really, but neither are other advertisers likely to pressure Mr Dore to comply for the greater good. Different if a national, big buck advertiser declined to comply.

So Merv Dore will likely just keep doing what he's doing, unless heaps of people agree with the three complainants so far, and it starts affecting his business.

That doesn't seem to be the case, which is perhaps the most interesting aspect of all this. People complain about society becoming too PC, but have we turned a corner?

The ASA decision said this advert was "reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence on the grounds of gender".

If that was so you'd think the vans would have attracted more than three complaints in three years. And you'd think our reporting of this case would also have drawn negative comment. There's been hardly any.

Rather than "offence", the feeling seems to be a mix of "tacky, boyish, best ignored".

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Unless you're a bit of a lad.

PS: Is it also sexist to assume Independent Forklifts' target market is men?

- The Timaru Herald

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