And another thing: Paul Catmur on the public shaming of the Hilux ad

‘I disapprove of what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.’

I confess, I don’t like the new Toyota Hilux ad.

I mean no ill will to anyone involved, I’m sure I’ve done plenty of things that they don’t like either, but I’m just not a fan.

When I first heard that Toyota were pulling it from air I felt a little internal glow of ‘I told you so’.

But then something about the whole affair started to make me a little uneasy.

A number of people, many seemingly based in Brazil, hounded Toyota so much that they felt compelled to take their shiny new ad down. A decision that leads to Toyota throwing away the hundreds of thousands of dollars they had already invested in the campaign and probably threatening more than one job. And for what? Creating an ad which had animals so enamoured with the new Hilux that they would happily die for the chance to have a ride on it. Sure you could object on the grounds of it being a dumb idea, but not that it ran counter to any of this country’s laws, ethics or morals.

As in Jon Ronson’s book ‘So you’ve been publicly shamed’, it’s another case of the power of the internet being abused by people who live to be outraged. It’s the tyranny of the minority whom the web has given a voice.

The public have always been the judge of ads: ‘if you don’t like it, don’t buy the product’ is a pretty effective way of controlling what we see. If you really hate it and feel it has broken the law then let the Advertising Standards Authority know and they will handle it. But to systematically abuse and hassle an organisation because you personally don’t like something that breaks no law and does no harm to anyone either human or animal, is not a way for a civilised society to behave. It’s just bullying.

This is not a debate on abortion, child poverty, apartheid regimes or corrupt politicians this is an ad for a car. So I would ask the Internet lynch mob to put away their burning torches and save their moral outrage for something that actually needs their attention. Like the fact that New Zealand children are infinitely more likely to be killed by their parents than by a dog. I’m sure Voltaire would back you on that one.

  • Paul Catmur is creative managing partner at Barnes Catmur & Friends. 

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