The Advertising Standards Authority has rejected consumer complaints against a Cell C ad that features a scruffy dog mounting a man’s leg, ruling that the company can continue flighting it.
The humourous ad, which attempts to show how consumers are being ripped off in many aspects of their daily lives, concludes with the dog abandoning its attempts to hump the man’s leg when he walks into a Cell C store.
Complainants submitted that the ad shows a dog performing a sexual act, which they argued is unsuitable and too explicit for children.
One complainant argued that the commercial is misleading as it depicts behaviour that is not the usual conduct of dogs. Two others raised concerns about possible animal cruelty.
Cell C’s ad agency FCB argued that the ad is premised on a concept that all South Africans can identify with: being taken advantage of.
“The protagonist ‘Everyman’ finds this irritating dog wherever he goes. The message of the commercial is clear that while others take advantage of consumers, Cell C won’t,” FCB said.
Cell C at all times intended to flight the commercial after 8.30pm. However, there was one incident where it appeared earlier. When the company noticed this, the ad package with the broadcaster concerned was discontinued and no further packages purchased. Cell C undertook not to flight the ad in children’s programming.
In its ruling, the advertising authority said it is “accepted that the commercial contains a sexual metaphor, but it is one that its target audience will understand to convey the message that Cell C offers products and services that are better value for money, unlike other instances where the consumer is constantly being ‘screwed’”.
“While people might be uncomfortable with the puppet dog performing a sexual-like act, it does not automatically make the communication offensive.
“The closing voice-over in the commercial says, inter alia, ‘If you’re tired of being taken advantage of maybe it’s time to try the cellular network that gives you more for less…’ This further reinforces the message.”
The authority said it accepts that some people might find the ad crass and the notion of a dog mounting a man’s leg as crude and in poor taste. But it said it is “satisfied that the obvious metaphor would not be lost on the average consumer”.
It added that the likely discomfort that many consumers might have “appears reasonable and justifiable in a democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom”.
On potential harm to children, the authority said Cell C’s undertaking to show the ad only after the watershed time and not during children’s programming appears to address the concerns of the complainants.
The authority also rejected complaints about animal abuse. — © 2015 NewsCentral Media