ASA upholds Hellers complaint: barbecuing on moving ute ‘illegal and dangerous’

A complaint levelled at a Hellers TVC that features comedian Leigh Hart barbecuing on the back of a moving ute has been upheld by the ASA for not abiding by the New Zealand Road Code.

In the ad, Hart, who has been the face of the Hellers since 2006, gives another one of the ludicrous barbecuing tips that have have typified the ‘Hellers BBQ masters’ campaign.

In other spots, the comedian is depicted stealing gas cannisters from his neighbours, barbecuing with his shirt on fire and cleaning his barbecue with high-pressure hose.

And while none of the other spots offer practicable or safe barbecuing advice, the complainant M Wilkes took particular exception to the ad that depicts Hart on a ute.

“The ad showed a number of people standing in the back of a ute (vehicle) apparently being driven at high speed. These people were unrestrained in any manner. This action (of being driven unrestrained in a vehicle) is contrary to the NZ Road code. The vehicle may have been on a private road however this was not highlighted as is usual,” said Wilkes in his complaint to the ASA.

The decision from the ASA cited two clauses of the Road Code: firstly, principle 4, which says “all advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society”; and rule 12, which stipulates that “advertisements should not, unless justifiable on educational or social grounds, contain any visual presentation or any description of dangerous or illegal practices or situations which encourage a disregard for safety. ”

In its response, Simpatico Marketing and Communications, the creator of the ad, explained that the ad had been presented to the Commercials Approval Bureau (CAB) prior to airing. After reviewing the clip, the CAB suggested certain changes to emphasise the farcical nature of the video.

These recommended changes were implemented and the revised version was then approved by the CAB.

Simpatico also emphasised that all the scenarios depicted over the course of the campaign were “intended to be humorous and clearly not to be taken too seriously.”

The CAB concurred with these sentiments in its response and pointed out that “viewers recognise the absurdity of the advertisement and there is therefore no reason to uphold the complaint.”

Although noting all these points, the ASA relied on the precedent set by the decision made in the Telecom XT ad that depicted Zoe Bell standing in an open-top vehicle while speaking on her cellphone.  

In this earlier decision, the ASA found that such actions encouraged viewers to disregard their safety, and the commercial did thus not meet the minimum standards of social responsibility required of advertisers.

Given that the majority of the Complaints Board found the Telecom XT decision to be directly applicable to the Hellers case and that they also felt that “travelling on the tray of a ute unrestrained [is]illegal and dangerous,” the complaint was upheld by the ASA. 

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