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Product: DIY Tools
Advertiser: Smyths Homevalue
Medium: Social Media (Facebook)
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 3.16, 3.17, 3.19(a), 3.19(b), 3.19(c), 3.19(d), 3.19(e)
The advertisement featured a man dressed in black, with his face and hands painted in black. It starts with a man flicking his tongue at the camera before proceeding to explain what products are offered on sale by the advertisers. The video concludes with the man flicking his tongue again.
The complainant considered the advertisement was racist and that the advertisers was selling goods using racism.
The advertisers said that being a small, independent business in rural Ireland presented many challenges in the face of major competition from large international retail groups of significant scale and influence. They said that as such they have embraced social media and Facebook in particular as a platform for them to engage with their local customers, and the wider community, to build trust and brand equity.
They said this engagement included showcasing new products, announcing in-store events, highlighting promotions, providing DIY and gardening tutorials, and coordinating local charitable initiatives. They said that often as part of this outreach they used humorous videos that were intended as non-offensive light entertainment.
They said that their business recorded and posted a video online highlighting a number of key promotions in-store that day to celebrate the global Black Friday promotional event. They said that the premise of the video was to celebrate Ireland’s very recent and historic win over the New Zealand rugby team, named the All Blacks, while also linking it to Black Friday. They said this was portrayed by the store owner dressing entirely in a New Zealand All Blacks playing kit and painting his body with black body paint. They said this was brought to life further by the store owner attempting one element of the renowned New Zealand ‘Haka’ ceremonial dance, namely the ‘whetero’ routine, which is where the participant exposes their tongue.
They said that while the video was positively received as intended by the overwhelming majority of people, there were a very limited number of people who noted their displeasure, and out of respect, they removed the video immediately that day and posted a public message clarifying that it was not intended to cause disrespect. They said that this message was very well received, as evidenced by the many positive and supportive responses they received thereafter.
They noted that the complaint was based on an individual’s perception that the video was intended to use racism to sell goods. They said that while they appreciated that the execution of this video was ill-advised on their part, they expressed their regret that the video has been misinterpreted in this way. They said that the portrayal was envisioned as homage to Ireland’s win over the All Blacks rugby team and the Black Friday promotional event and in no way intended to impersonate or insult anyone based on race.
The advertisers said that as a matter of basic principle, they, as a family business, believed in respect for all people regardless of gender, nationality, colour, creed, or sexual orientation and they abhorred any action that disregards that. They said that, while they rejected the assertion that the video was intended as a racial slur, they acknowledged the misunderstanding it had caused, and were committed to ensuring that they were more cognisant of societal sensitivities in the future, to avoid causing any offence.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint, the advertisers’ response and that the advertisement had been withdrawn.
The Committee noted that the advertisers had not intended to impersonate nor insult anyone. They considered, however, that the application of face paint to completely change an individual’s complexion without context could give rise to concerns of racism. The Committee considered that the advertisement had not been responsive to the diversity in Irish society and that it had breached Section 3.17, 3.19 (b) and (c).
As the advertisement had been withdrawn, no further action in relation to this advertisement was required.