Auckland Council halts Powershop’s dancing Mao ad

The image of Chinese revolutionist Mao Tse-tung dancing the infamous Gangnam Style was just too much for the Auckland Council, which has denied Powershop’s latest ‘Same Power Different Attitude’ ad from appearing on its bus stops. 

Auckland Transport’s communications manager Sharon Hunter told the New Zealand Herald the Council doesn’t want ads which are designed to be shocking, offensive or controversial. In this case the picture of Chairman Mao riding an invisible horse could be considered offensive by Chinese residents and equestrians. 

However,  Council bus stops have in the past featured other Powershop ads poking fun at deceased leaders such as Saddam Hussein and former US president Richard Nixon. 

Powershop head of design Simon Coley describes the Council’s decision as a “humour failure”.

“Although Chairman Mao isn’t the only world leader (dead or alive) to have danced [Gangnam] Style, Auckland’s arbiters of taste have deemed Powershop’s depiction of the dancing leader of the great leap forward, offensive,” he says.

The bus stop ads are also running in Wellington and Coley points out the Wellington City Council hasn’t taken this step (yet).

Adshel manages the ad spaces on Council bus stops. Managing director Nick Vile says the company always flags potentially controversial ads, as the bus shelters are public services. 

“Part of our relationship with various city councils is a contractual agreement that all creative is approved by the council,” says Vile.

“They need to take a conservative approach based on the lowest common denominator when deeming something as offensive or not.”

Vile says Powershop ad campaigns in the past have caused complaints, including directly to the Advertising Standards Authority. He says he is still waiting to hear back from the Wellington City Council whether it would follow Auckland’s decision.

Vile adds that Adshel will either reimburse Powershop or offer to accept alternative creative, granted the Council doesn’t block that too of course.

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