Earlier this year All Black hero Piri Weepu recorded his third Smokefree advertisement, made by the Health Sponsorship Council and Base Two. His appearance in two earlier Smokefreee ads had been so successful they inspired both his brother, and his mum Kura Weepu, to quit smoking. But now, a furore by the 'breast-is-best brigade" has seen a two second clip of Weepu dropped from the new 2011 ad, for *gasp* bottle feeding his baby daughter.
When the makers of the advert sent it out to a variety of advocacy groups asking for feedback - Plunket, the New Zealand College of Midwives and the La Letche League all disapproved of Weepu bottle feeding his six-month-old daughter Taylor, and asked that it be removed, fearing such footage of the high-profile Weepu could sway people away from breastfeeding their children. Weepu became a national hero during the All Blacks' World Cup-winning campaign. "Keep calm, Piri's on" became one of many memes.
Weepu told Campbell Live's Kate King his baby is allergic to dairy, one of the reasons why she is bottlefed.
"What are you going to do if ... the mother can't breastfeed? What am I supposed to do - go find someone who is breastfeeding at two o'clock in the morning and see if they can give my daughter milk? It's not going to happen."
In the Health Sponsorship Council TV ad, Weepu spoke of the importance of having a smoke free home.
"The ad was basically about being smoke free. Our house is smoke free so that I can have a better future for my girls," he told Campbell Live.
La Leche League director Alison Stanton told the Herald on Sunday the trouble was not with Weepu bottle feeding but with the overall message.
"It's really important that those messages are consistent across the board. It's been resolved and was really a storm in a tea cup."
Karen Guilliland, chief executive officer of the College of Midwives, told the Herald the organisation also opposed the ad too. "We just figured that Piri Weepu was so loved that whatever he did would carry a huge weight."
However the decision to cut the footage has been widely criticised, with some pointing out men and many women cannot breastfed.
"I'm pretty sure a lot of dads would like to be more hands on, but when it comes to feeding babies we don't have that luxury," Weepu said.
"They are my kids, I'm not going to have anyone tell me how to raise me kids."
No one at Base Two was prepared to comment on this today, but Iain Potter, Health Sponsorship Council's chief executive was more than happy to straighten out a few of the misunderstandings doing the rounds:
Piri Weepu will still be screening alongside Smashproof's Young Sid in a new Smokefree ad to be launched this Sunday 12 February. He was never dropped. A two-second shot was changed.
The first ad of this new series, starring Shorty Street's Ben Mitchell boxing, Breaker Tom Abercrombie, and Ladi6 screened last Sunday. They are shot and edited with a more "reality-show" feel than the present production heavy music-video style. In his new ad Weepu will still be seen both as a hands-on dad at home with his two girls Keira and Taylor, as well as on the rugby field, where the half-back helped bring home a certain trophy.