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Fri 27 Apr 2012 In: Entertainment View at NDHA

The TV ad with Dai Henwood on a wall and two uncomfortable 'lesbians' on a couch, has us scratching our heads about what advertisers are trying to achieve and whether any will ever hit the mark in portraying us. Or… is it that we are just waaay too sensitive? Have you seen the weird Metro Fires parody attempt featuring Dai Henwood falling off a wall? You can check it out below if not. Along with the creepy Henwood it has two unconvincing actresses, who are clearly incredibly uncomfortable about pretending to be lesbians: This ad is best summed up with the word ‘strange’. Sure, maybe a little funny for some people – but it definitely isn’t a hit when it comes to representing us: Can anyone name a lesbian couple (read REAL lesbian couple) who would just sit there all doe-eyed while some pervy guy was hanging out behind their couch? Double miss: No company has better managed to exemplify ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’ advertising than Moa Beer. It’s enraged many glbti folk with its utterly stupid slogans not just once, but twice. First came the December 2010 low carb “qeers” t-shirts, which were not only a shining example of the modern plague of terrible spelling, but also simply not funny and just blatantly offensive to all ‘qeers’, (not to mention those who love their beer full of carbs). Then in 2011, clearly not realising just how much lesbians love beer, the brewer’s ad team decided to erect a nonsensical attempt at offending us once again, with a billboard reading "Fifty years ago before there were lesbians this is what beer tasted like". Clearly Moa’s advertisers didn’t pass their history class when they failed their spelling test. The Advertising Standards Authority entered the fray after a complaint was made, but ruled the issue was settled as the billboard campaign had by that stage been taken down. All in all, plenty of people in the glbt community still swear off Moa Beer. So what did the company achieve, apart from alienating us? What the Hell? While more marketing than advertising per se, Hell Pizza’s message on some of its misfortune cookies that: ‘You Will Marry a Transgender’ had the company rushing to apologise. "We like to be irreverent and cheeky, and most of the time we think we get it right," Hell co-founder Stu McMullin told us. "On this occasion we experienced a sense of humour failure. We have caused offense, and contributed to the bigotry that hurts LGBT people all over the world every day, and we regret this," he continued. Hell is no stranger to controversy, in fact it has actively courted it, but here it seems this message was a genuine cock up. We sure hope so. Divisive: Three ads you can still hear arguments about echoing down K’ Rd are the Libra tampons, ‘was it a drag queen or was it a transwoman’ debate, the Air New Zealand ‘non-gay kiss’ ad and the Pump water ad where two straight workers pretend to be getting married to get out of an extra shift. Are they funny, or are they offensive? We could talk to five glbti people on the street and get five different opinions. So they’re not wins are they? The best ad we’ve see is the French McDonald’s ad, which really seems to sum up being a gay teenager – and it’s so cute! But then some people in the community don’t like that either as the kid is hiding his sexuality from his dad … so is the job for advertisers just too hard? Will our Liquorice Allsorts of a community ever agree on anything? Or will we never be happy? An expert’s view: Programme Leader for Advertising at AUT’s School of Communication Studies Paul White has given us some insight into what he thinks of some of the advertising controversies in the glbti community. “No-one should be afraid of controversy, but no one should use it just for the sake of it,” he tells “If it's relevant and genuinely makes a point then fine. Most of the ones you quote are pretty weak, aren't they?” he says of the cases we put to him, which were Moa beer, Pump, Libra, Air New Zealand and Hell Pizza. “Hell Pizza does believe in controversy for controversy's sake,” White says. “They issued a little book (last year) crowing about all the ads they have run that have received complaints. Personally I think Hell Pizza in the past has been completely misguided. My rule would be: relevant controversy is much better than random controversy. “Having said that, most decent agencies don't set out to piss people off. They try to reflect what is acceptable in society as it changes. Sometimes they will be a little ahead of the broadcasting norms. Usually not. So, for example, ten years ago, they got it right with Toyota's bugger TV ad - a few people were annoyed but the vast majority took no offence. It became one of the most popular commercials of all time.” White thinks there may actually be a positive side to gay and trans people becoming the butt of advertisers' jokes. “People simply talk about being gay or transgender more these days than they used to. It's acceptable to talk about such things now, as it should be - that's reflected in the advertising,” he says. “Advertising makes jokes about all kinds of people. In a way gay and trans people are no exception. And I hope and believe it won't always just be just jokes, it'll be part of the way things are.” And is our community sometimes being too sensitive? “Yep, occasionally,” White says. “And actually when an advertiser does something offensive, it reflects badly on them, not you.” He agrees some advertisers are afraid to even go there with gay and lesbian content at all: “But they will gradually, maybe very gradually, change.” Jacqui Stanford - 27th April 2012    

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Friday, 27th April 2012 - 7:19pm

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