The ban-effect

When something has been banned it immediately becomes that little bit more alluring. Why else do teenagers sneak into their parents liquor cabinets and haphazardly smoke cigarettes. Recently Kiwi novel Into the River was banned by the Film and Literature Review Board, so we thought we’d look into this and other outrageous bans and from a marketing perspective, is a ban such a bad thing? 

Yesterday, the New Zealand public was shocked by a decision by the Film and Literature Board of Review to temporarily ban a book for the first time in 22 years.

It banned Ted Dawe’s award-winning book Into the River from sale or supply after a complaint from Christian group Family First.

They objected to the young adult’s novel sexually explicit content, drug use and a slang term for women’s genitals that were used in the book.

It is now in the process of being yanked from schools, bookshops and libraries around the country.

But as some have pointed out, the banning does seem a little excessive when you see what else is for sale on bookshop shelves.

Others highlighted the fact that banning a product often ends up giving it more publicity than it started with, resulting in more people trying to buy it.

Time Out Bookstore has taken advantage of this with its latest window display, which shows a variety of classic books which have been banned at one point or another.

Sitting in the centre of the display is Into the River, cleverly disguised in a paper bag.

Bookreaders and booksellers take note – the fines for distributing Into the River while it is banned isn’t funny business. 

The fine for distributing it without knowledge of the ban, is $3,000 for an individual, and $10,000 for a business.

If distributed with knowledge of the ban, is $10,000 or up to three months in prison for an individual, and $25,000 for a business.

Here’s some other questionable bans that have taken place.


There’s really nothing more seductive than a scantily clad mannequin.

Apparently to some, their plastic, lifeless bodies are the epitome of sexy, which is why Iranian police cracked down on shopkeepers whose mannequins showed curves or bared skin.

Reportedly, female mannequins’ breasts had to be sanded down.

The banning was part of Iran’s strict rules on “Un-Islamic behaviour”.

Time travel

If you’re in China and think you’re onto something that might be the world’s next Back To The Future film, you’re technically a criminal.

China’s censors banned inappropriate use of time travel in TV and film 2011, as they deemed it a “frivolous” approach to history.

A statement on the State Administrations of Radio, Film and Television’s site warns companies to avoid showing “incorrect” shows or movies.

Barbie’s pregnant friend

Walmart was forced to clear its shelves of Barbie’s friend with a baby bump after customers complained about seeing pregnancy enter Barbie’s universe.

The doll had a detachable belly, which contained a curled up baby that could be delivered.

It was part of the “Happy Family” set, which also included a husband and son.

Customers apparently had concerns about a pregnant doll, with one shopper saying it promoted teenage pregnancy.

Superbad DVDs with fake IDs

This teen comedy movie was a smash hit when it came out, thanks to its geeky, lovable character Fogell, who’s better known as ‘McLovin’.

The character uses a fake Hawaii driver’s license in the movie to buy alcohol, so someone thought it’d be a good idea to include a replica of the license with the DVD on shelves.

However, Hawaiian authorities were concerned it would actually be used as a fake ID and requested it be pulled from DVDs in store.


Marmite has been known to get its fans in a flap when it runs out here in New Zealand, but it seems Denmark isn’t quite as into the black spread.

The country removed the UK version of Marmite from its stores in 2011 because it contained added vitamins, which is illegal under Dutch law.

Australian’s competitor spread, Vegemite, also got booted.

However, a supplier had a license approved to sell the product again last year, so hope hasn’t yet been lost for its Dutch fans.

Valentine’s Day products

Saudi Arabia is known for its outrageous bans, such as that on female drivers.

The day of love is also found to be a violation of Muslim beliefs.

On February 14, the government orders all florists and gift shops to remove anything red from shelves.

Anything that is a symbol of romance, such as heart shaped items, are also outlawed on the day.

Apparently, the ban has backfired and created a thriving Valentine’s Day black market where lovers buy tokens like red roses at around six times the regular price.

  • This story was originally posted on our sister publication The Register.

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