Confessions of a former ASA employee

When I studied in Wellington I had several part-time jobs over the years, mostly retail. I sold fancy things at Kirkcaldie & Stains, and tea at a shop near Manners Street. Pretty normal stuff. 

But, one day, I found myself heading to an office tucked away on Boulcott Street to take on a job at the Advertising Standards Authority.

While a short stint, filling the time between exams and holidays one year, it was long enough to show me that people get angry about some strange things.

One thing that needs to be said is that the team at the ASA (including the board) works incredibly hard. Each complaint, whether it was eventually upheld or not, was given equal attention and consideration.

Part of my role was being the first port-of-call for people ringing up to lay a complaint.

Quite regularly, I was required to explain (as sensitively as possible) that the loud television ads could be alleviated by turning down the volume or switching to mute. I was perhaps guilty of overlooking the fact that some might not have had remote controls for their televisions.   

The majority of callers were fine with the fact I couldn’t personally help as I explained they would either have to physically write in or send their complaints via email or the website.

But there were a few who either didn’t have the internet, or thought it was controlled by aliens or the government. No, this is not hyperbole. On the positive side, it made for some very amusing phone exchanges.  

One of the most memorable emails I received during my time there came from a young man who wanted Wendy’s advertisements removed from television screens and radio in the South Island as, at least at that time, there were none of that food outlets stores there. (There are now stores in Christchurch and Dunedin.)

He thought it wasn’t fair to Southerners they had to listen and view the ads over and over while North Islanders got to eat it to their heart’s content.

The sheer eloquence of his writing combined with the level of frustration at not being able to eat the fine offerings of this establishment made it an amusing morning at work. 

I don’t believe the complaint was upheld but I can only hope that complainant is now in a position of eating Wendy’s whenever he pleases.

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