When Ogilvy launched Kiwibank’s tenth birthday ad a few months back, we said: “Wait for the moaners to see the kid jumping off the rock”. And whaddya know, the haters hated, the moaners moaned, and, in its latest round of decisions, a complaint was partially upheld, with a majority of the ASA complaints board finding the ad had “not been prepared with the due sense of responsibility to consumers and to society”.
Complainant T Waelen said: The add [sic] in my opinion encourages children to disregard rule’s [sic] and partake in activities that would not be safe, namely to go onto a playing field when sign says not to, also one child is seen with a spray can in her hand, which I interpret as that she has been doing graffiti [it was hairspray], and another child jumping from a cliff into water, with no idea of the consequences and I do not understand what that has to do with kiwi bank’s 10th anniversary, all I can see is children misbehaving and encouraging other children to do the same.”
Other complainants shared similar views and had additional concerns such as the advertisement showed children participating in potentially dangerous activities with a lack of adult supervision; encouraged children to break the rules to get something they want; encouraged children to cheat; that taxpayers assets such as the ‘grounds closed’ signs should be respected and that, most boringly of all, the kids were going too fast down the sandhills.
Some complainants raised concerns about the timing of the advertisement and the effect it may have on younger viewers, while others were concerned that the advertisement was aimed at children.
Kiwibank responded with:
Pushing over a sign
Kiwibank’s view differs to that of the complainants and it does not consider this scene to be socially irresponsible. The scene shows Kiwi children using their judgement to overlook a rule superseded by circumstances. In particular, the scene first shows the children standing in shade looking at the field in sunshine, then looking at the sign, then looking at the sky, and then deciding to ignore the sign. Most of the complainants got the point that the field was probably closed because of bad weather, which had evidently passed.
Kiwibank’s view differs to that of the complainants and if does not consider this scene to be either socially irresponsible or unduly dangerous. The scene shows Kiwi children outdoors, having fun. Kiwibank acknowledges that leaping off a rock into a swimming hole involves an element of risk (as do most physical activities), but these risks are slight and were clearly mitigated by the following measures incorporated into the advertisement:
- started showing a wet boy (i.e. he had already checked out the jump and it was safe to do so);
- there was only one child jumping at a time;
- there were no swimmers directly below the jumper; and
- there were two adults in the foreground supervising as the boy jumps, and a family group in the background as he surfaces.
It is Kiwibank’s view that this scene captures part of a typical Kiwi childhood. In fact, the boy lives locally and regularly jumps at this well known swimming hole at McLaren Falls. It would be disappointing if quintessentially Kiwi activities such as climbing trees, using rope swings, jumping into rivers and mud slides were banned from advertisements.
We note that Ogilvy (the advertising agency that was employed in creating and/or placing the advertisement) liaised with the Television Commercial Approvals Bureau. The Bureau was provided a copy of the script. The Bureau made various recommendations that were incorporated into the script. We also note that Ogilvy liaised with Water Safety New Zealand when writing the advertisement. Water Safety New Zealand was provided photos of the location and children jumping from the rocks, together with details of the measures set out above. Water Safety New Zealand confirmed that the brief and proposed mitigation strategies were acceptable, while emphasising the significance of the inclusion of adult supervision. Water Safety New Zealand has subsequently raised issues in respect of the advertisement but has stated that it will not pursue this matter.
Despite pointing out that the ad had performed well in Colmar Brunton brand tracking, which shouldn’t really have any bearing on the ASA’s decision, the majority of the Complaints Board found that the rock jumping scenario had shown the boy behaving in a dangerous way and, coupled with the tag line “I’d stand up for trying something new, and even a bit crazy,” encouraged a disregard for safety. A minority disagreed. But in the end it was decided the advertisement had not been prepared with the due sense of responsibility to consumers and to society and it was in breach of Basic Principle 4 and Rule 12 of the Code of Ethics.
- Download the report here.
UPDATE: Bruce Thompson, Kiwibank’s comms manager got back to us. He didn’t want to talk too much about the decision and said their position had already been stated, but he confirmed it would be re-editing the ad and including a shot of parents watching on during the rock jump.
“Hopefully that will allay any fears people might have that the kids weren’t supervised,” he says.
He says the brand has always had a cheeky, challenger streak, and this campaign is no different. But it’s obviously pretty hard to avoid complaints. He says it’s first ever ad featured two cats, one small to represent Kiwibank, one fat to represent the Aussies, and people complained about that because cats eat Kiwis.