When Scott and his party of explorers were nearing death in the wastes of Antarctica, someone would almost certainly have made some quip about Spring being on the way. When the RMS Titanic hit the iceberg I’ll bet some wag said that they didn’t need any more ice for their G&T.
Sadly, however, that sense of humour seems to have disappeared. Not entirely, of course. Jokes are still told and laughed at and I dare say that in difficult situations people are still using gallows humour to good effect. But there is also an air of puritanical misery that seems intent on sucking the joy out of life.
Unfortunately, around a thousand people didn’t see the joke. Not only didn’t they see the joke, they complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), describing these adverts as being offensive.
Three out of the top four adverts were for a single product and garnered a total of 2,491 complaints between them. I have no doubt that some people complained about all three of the adverts. After all, if you found one of them offensive it follows that the others would be seen to be offensive as well.
In case you aren’t familiar with the adverts, you can watch one of them here.
Now , it is rare for my name and the word “liberal” to appear in the same sentence, but try as I might, I can’t see anything other than humour in that advert, but 898 people complained that it was sexually offensive. Is it sexualising women? No. Is it showing any naked bodies? No. Is it a whole load of men dressed as builders, or in tight shorts and high heels, performing ridiculous dance moves? Yes. It’s meant to be funny and, in my humble opinion, it is funny. It parodies the music videos of singers such as Beyonce, Rhianna and Miley Cyrus without sexualising women and does it to good effect.
Take the 3rd most complained about advert. It is for a dating website and features a female couple kissing; it attracted 896 complaints. I don’t know what century the complainants are living in, but being gay has been legal since 1967. Yes, that’s right, this year is the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Sexual Offences Act (1967) which made it legal for people in Britain to indulge in homosexual acts between consenting adults.
Were there complaints about heterosexual couples kissing in adverts? Certainly not any that made the top ten. People in love kiss. Some of those people will be gay. Get over it. The message that the advert was trying to get across wasn’t that we should all be gay, it was that gay people are as welcome on the dating site as heterosexuals. However, it seems that homophobes do like to complain about adverts.
Of course, hidden within that advert, was the real joke. The Scottish football team was the only one of the home nations to fail to qualify for the tournament. The ad was laden with irony, but obviously the complainants failed to spot that in their desire to be offended.
To be fair, the gambling company concerned has had a number of its ads banned over the years, so I’m guessing that their reputation goes before them.
I won’t go into all ten adverts, it would be too time consuming and tedious, but if you want to see which ones they are you can find them here.
I’m happy to report that the ASA, the regulator who investigates complaints about TV advertising, agrees with me on the matter. All of the top ten most complained about adverts were found to be acceptable by the ASA.
Who are Mediawatch-UK? They are the modern day incarnation of the National Viewers and Listeners Association, founded by Mary Whitehouse (amongst others) in 1965 to police the airwaves on our behalf. As such they are self-appointed and represent only the narrow minded views of their members.
Does Mediawatch-UK represent the British consumer, in any real sense? According to The Guardian, in 2002 they had 8,000 members. Is that representative of a country that has a population of over 64 million people? I don’t know how many members Mediawatch-UK currently has, their website doesn’t say, but they don’t have a big following on Twitter, just 148 followers (I have over 15,000 and I’m just a struggling author and blogger). Similarly, they have only 297 “likes” for their Facebook page. I don’t offer those figures as proof of anything except, perhaps, that their members have yet to embrace modern technology.
I do, however, suspect that Mediawatch-UK are not as representative of the British public as they like to claim, and I also suspect that their members are very much amongst those 1,063 people who made this the No 1 most complained about advert of 2016.
I hope that you enjoy the advert and that, unlike Mediawatch-UK, you recognise the humour in it.
If you are the sort of person who easily takes offence, you may want to steer clear of my books, more information on which can be found by clicking on the "Books" tab at the top of the page.
Episode 2 of my video book blog is now live on YouTube and may be viewed here. https://youtu.be/TQCTmAtsch0