ASA gives Kiwibank and Ogilvy a slap for ‘irresponsible’ ad—UPDATED

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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

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their judgement to overlook a rule superseded by circumstances.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.

Rock jumping

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

  1. started showing a wet boy (i.e. he had already checked out the jump and it was safe to do so);
  1. there was only one child jumping at a time;
  1. there were no swimmers directly below the jumper; and
  1. there were two adults in the foreground supervising as the boy jumps, and a family group in the background as he surfaces.

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

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.

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.

Interestingly, Hallensteins’ and Publicis Mojo’s fairly raunchy ‘Power of the Suit‘ ad didn’t fall foul of the ASA. Download the findings here.

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.

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.

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