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Burying the Truth

0 comments | 11:06 pm | top |

One day near the beginning of July, as I drove over an overbridge in Christchurch, I saw the above billboard.  I was naturally concerned for this man and his poor family.  In my mind's eye I thought through the likely situations that Brian might be in right now.  Had he been murdered and his body dumped behind some bushes in some remote area?  Had he been kidnapped for a ransom?... His pooor wife and children.  I was impressed that Brian's family and friends had got together and raised some money to fund a huge billboard trying to locate him.

Imagine my frustration and disgust when, a couple of weeks later, driving over that same bridge, a new billboard had been erected.  It was a similar billboard, but this time it made it clear that it was advertising a TV Series called Burying Brian.  As soon as I arrived home (July 5), I filed a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority.  I have copied my complaint below.

"I am writing to make a complaint regarding the advertising for the TV One series, "Burying Brian".  A couple of weeks ago as I drove across an overbridge in Christchurch, I was confronted with a billboard - which I now know was advertising the show.

However, the billboard had nothing on it at that stage, to show that it was an advert - and looked exactly like a billboard put up by Brian's family and friends.

I have no problem with the TV show itself, having not seen it.  My problem is with this particular form of advertisment.  It cheapens the genuine "Lost Person" posters that are occasionally used.

The next time (aprox 2 weeks later) that I drove past this billboard, it had been updated, and it was now clear that it was advertising a TV series.

I do hope that you will manage to vett adverts like this in the future, that cheapen or trivialise serious issues - as was the case with the boy who cried wolf."

On Monday (September 15), I received by mail the ASA's decision on the complaint.  I found that antother complaint had been made, and I will copy this below:

"This is an awful way to advertise as it is not a missing person at all and you have to phone the number to find out that it is not" - J. Cambridge

The basis of TVNZ's response was...

"the billboard advertisments commenced with showing a photograph of Shane Cortese, a well-known actor who appears in the television program "Burying Brian".

Hah, he's well-known is he?  Well, reality-check TVNZ, not everyone watches your shows.  They continue driveling on in their pathetic response...

"As Shane Cortese was not in fact missing, it cannot be said tat there was any lack of a sense of social responisibility..."

What the...?  Well, excuse me, but how are we supposed to know that Shane Cortese is not missing?  What has that got to do with it?  The missing man was listed as Brian Welch.  Boy they are thick.  TVNZ continues, stating that they believe they have not caused "serious offence" by the portrayal of the actor as a missing person.

The deliberation from the ASA considered that "...there had been no intention on the part of the Advertiser to mislead the public with regard to the nature of the message."  Oh really? Well why did the billboard contain nothing to assure us that it was in fact just an advert for a TV programme?

"The Complaints Board acknowledged that the advertisment alluded to a serious issue, the dissapearance of a person, and said that although this fromat was not used in New Zealand in real instances, it was used in some other countries."

Sigh, they are so short-sighted.  Maybe this method of advertising missing persons has not yet been used in New Zealand.  But what is going to happen when a genuine billboard is erected, asking people to look out for a missing person?  Will they also have to go the the ridiculous length of stating on the billboard: "this is not a marketing stunt, we really mean it."

So, after 3 letters and two copies of the 60-page Advertising Codes of Practice booklet, and about two months later, the predictable and unjust decision comes back from the ASA:

Decision: Complaint Not Upheld

It is just blind ignorance and arrogance on the part of the State-owned, tax-payer funded TVNZ and the ASA.

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