An interesting presser popped up in my mail box today regards the controversial Red Bull Jesus ad, suggesting that SA youth are not as liberal in their views as advertisers and marketers generally assume.
Of course, it’s based on the response of a single survey which doesn’t represent the country’s youth market … but it still offers good insight into how youngsters respond to advertising campaigns. And it shows the attitudes and sensitivities of young South Africans are not always what we would expect. It’s something all of us, but particularly advertisers and marketers, should bear in mind.
“SA youth agree with Red Bull Ad retraction
A survey by Pondering Panda, a consumer insights company specialising in fast turnaround research, suggests that South African youths are surprisingly not as tolerant as one would expect. Following the retraction of a Red Bull advert from television networks in South Africa depicting Jesus walking on water; the company polled users of Mxit, Africa’s biggest social network, to gauge their reaction.
The poll posed the question: “Do you think it was right for the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) to remove the advert from TV networks?”
Of the 1,661 users who responded to the poll in the first day the poll was created, 59% of users felt that retracting the Red Bull advert was the right thing to do. 27% said the advert should have been allowed to continue and 14% had no strong opinion on the advert.
The contentious advert suggests that it was the Red Bull energy drink which caused Jesus to walk on water.
Shirley Wakefield, CEO of Pondering Panda, commented saying, “It is fascinating that almost 60% of the youth market surveyed agreed with the decision to retract the advert. There is a common belief that the youth market hold more liberal views and advertisers perhaps need to take note of these unexpected results.”
To be fair to Red Bull, it pulled the ad off air before the ASA made an approach following consumer complaints. The ad was flighted on TV only once before complaints led it to make the decision to discontinue the ad.
The ASA has since ruled on the matter. In a nutshell, it ruled in favour of the complainants’ view that the ad was offensive to Christians and imposed a sanction on Red Bull. But the sanction is suspended for six months, with conditions. If you’re interested in the ins and outs of the ASA’s decision, see below for full ruling.
Red Bull / F Meredith & Others / 19821
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
FRANCESCA MEREDITH FRANCOIS GROBLER ANDREA REINECKE RICHARDT VENTER RHONDA CROUSE IAN KITNEY SARAH M M LOMBARD L D CARIS IAN WILLIAM FORSTER LINDA ROBINSON MIQUETTE CAALSEN MARCELLE SCHLEBUSCH MARK RUSSELL GUY DENNISON
MERLE TOWNSEND MATTHY Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Red Bull Holdings South Africa (Pty) Ltd Respondent
Consumer complaints were lodged against a Red Bull television commercial promoting its Red Bull energy drink. The commercial was flighted, inter alia, on MNet and e.tv on Monday, 12 March 2012.
The animated commercial depicts Jesus fishing from a small boat with two other bearded, unnamed characters. Jesus comments that he is bored, steps out of the boat and starts walking on water. The one character states “Jesus! Wait there … wow, how did you do that?” (when he sees Jesus walking on water). Jesus asks “What do you mean?” The man refers to “… the walking on water thing?”, to which the other character states “uh, I believe he drank a Red Bull my china … gives him wings, not so?”. Jesus then clarifies “Not at all, it’s got nothing to do with Red Bull”, to which the second character shouts “Mazel tov! It’s a miracle!” Jesus then explains that its “No miracle” and that he “just need[s] to know where [he] placed the stones”.
As he says this, stones are seen protruding from the water and Jesus is shown hopping over them. He nearly slips on one and exclaims “Jesus!”
The complainant submitted, in essence, that:
The commercial is offensive as it makes a mockery of Jesus Christ by portraying Him in a blasphemous manner. Peripheral arguments to the allegation of offence relate to the fact that the commercial implies that the miracle of Jesus walking on water was all a sham.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ is alive and sitting at the right hand of God and as such His express permission should have been obtained before being featured in the commercial (in accordance with certain provisions of the Code).
The advertiser should apologise publicly and should be fined as well to indicate the level of offence caused.
Creates a bad example for children.
Its misleading as it creates an impression that the product existed during the time that Jesus Christ lived.
RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE In light of the complaints the following clauses of the Code were considered
. Section II, Clause 1 – Offensive advertising
. Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims
. Section II, Clause 11 – Protection of privacy and exploitation of the individual
. Section II, Clause 14 – Children
. Procedural Guide, Clause 14 – Sanctions
The respondent submitted, inter alia, that:
Even prior to receiving any communication from the ASA, it made the unilateral decision to cease running the commercial across all television and online mediums as a result of complaints received. The commercial was only flighted for one night and will not air again.
While it does not consider to have breached the Code (for the reasons below), it respects the views and opinions of the public and it does not intend causing offence to the groups that complained.
Its commercials are at all times animated and created for their humour and are not intended to be taken seriously or to cause offence. This is not unlike other cartoon shows (for example The Simpsons) where material is not intended to be taken literally.
The commercial does not mislead the consumer with respect to the product.
The use of the cartoon medium communicates to the viewer that this commercial is not intended to depict a real life scenario.
It does not direct its marketing to children. The commercial was aired in the evening. In addition, as stated on the product itself, it is not made to be consumed by children. Given the light-hearted nature of the commercial, the respondent does not believe it to be taken seriously.
It does do not see any scope for consideration of sanctions as it has already withdrawn the commercial and undertaken not to air it again in future. Furthermore, it apologises to those members of the public for any offence caused which was wholly unintended.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by all the parties.
In terms of the Code and a long-standing principle held in previous rulings, the Directorate has discretion in terms of deciding whether or not an unequivocal undertaking to remove or amend the advertising complained of is an adequate resolution to the matter. When such undertakings are accepted (which is often the case), it will be done because the undertaking addresses the concerns raised in the complaint/s.
Over the years, however, there have been instances where the Directorate did not believe a mere withdrawal of the advertising was sufficient. This will usually be in instances where, for example, the undertaking is merely given in an attempt to avoid sanctions, or where the proposed amendments would not adequately address the concerns (refer Mavericks / FM Boulle and Another /
11224 (4 August 2008) for example).
In addition to this, if the Directorate were satisfied that a respondent should reasonably have known its advertising was problematic / deceptive / offensive and still persisted with it, this could be seen as deliberate intent for which a mere withdrawal would not necessarily be adequate.
For the reasons set out more fully below, the Directorate is not satisfied that the withdrawal of the commercial is sufficient and adequately addresses the concerns raised. The respondent’s undertaking is therefore not accepted as a final resolution.
The ASA acknowledges that South Africa is a multi-cultural society and recognizes that it is important to ensure that all religious faiths and beliefs, no matter how large or small the communities that practice them, are treated with the same consideration and respect. A guiding principle has always been that advertising that attacks, ridicules or belittles a basic tenet of any belief would be problematic (refer Post Office / TT Mahanyele /
18484 (19 October 2011), Jews for Jesus / UOS / 9141 (12 July 2007), and the ruling of the Advertising Standards Committee in Nandos / The International Society of Krishna Consciousness / B Singh / N Singh / (19 September 2003) for examples).
Clause 1 of Section II states, inter alia, that “No advertising may offend against good taste or decency or be offensive to public or sectoral values and sensitivities, unless the advertising is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom”.
The commercial depicts an animated Jesus, walking on water. Eventually it is apparent that he is not walking on water but on stepping stones. There can be no doubt that this is a direct reference to what is regarded as one of Jesus’ miracles – walking on water.
In Mavericks / FM Boulle and Another / 11224 (4 August 2008), the Directorate considered a complaint against an advertisement that featured an image of a woman who appeared to be in prayer. She was shown holding a set of Rosary beads with a halo above her head. The payoff line said “BELIEVE”.
The complainant submitted that the advertisement was offensive as it featured symbols which were sacred to Christians to promote a service (a strip club) that Christianity is opposed to. The Directorate stated:
“While the Directorate must be careful not to sanctify religion to a point that advertisers cannot refer to it, it must take cognisance of the manner in which religious symbols are referred to.”
The Directorate upheld the complaint and rejected the respondent’s proposal of removing the halo and rosary beads. It pointed out that, even if these elements were removed, the white dove present in the advertisement was commonly associated with Christian symbolism. It added that doves symbolised the Third person of the Trinity and were featured in Christian art which is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.
In GHD Hair / LJ Van Zyl / 10419 (21 May 2008), the Directorate considered a complaint against a print advertisement that featured an image of a woman with closed eyes, holding Rosary beads in her hands. The Afrikaans wording alongside (translated for the sake of convenience) stated “May my luscious locks wrap every man on earth around my little finger.” The pay-off line “Thy will be done” (“U wil geskied”) was also used. The complainant submitted that the tagline used in this context was offensive. The Directorate upheld the complaint on the basis that the Lords Prayer was used for the sake of vanity and trivialised.
A similar approach can be applied to the matter at hand.
The respondent submitted that the use of the cartoon medium communicates to the viewer that this commercial is not intended to depict a real life scenario. Encarta Dictionary English (UK)’s defines Jesus Christ, inter alia, as “A Jewish religious teacher…His life and teachings form the basis of Christianity”. While the Directorate is mindful of the fact that the commercial is intended to be light-hearted, comical and harmless, this does not remove the direct reference, and ultimately trivialisation of the miracle of Jesus walking on water.
In doing so, the commercial not only makes fun of a basic event of the Christian religion, but uses Jesus Christ who is the central figure of this religion, in a comical situation and in a way that trivialised all events and teachings surrounding Jesus and the miracles he performed. This is something that would likely offend Christians in the same manner as it offended the complainants, and more importantly something that the respondent should reasonably have foreseen.
Based on the above the commercial is in contravention of Clause 1 of Section II of the Code. Given that the respondent has already withdrawn the commercial with permanent effect, the only remaining consideration is whether or not sanctions are appropriate.
In Chicken Licken / Kentucky Fried Chicken (1 September 2003), where a similar issue regarding blatant disregard of the spirit and the letter of the Code was considered, the advertising industry tribunal held that
“.the Tribunal concurred that the crafting of the advertisement was entirely deliberate. The character representing Colonel Saunders was virtually identical to the animated version used as KFC’s brand icon and the references to Finger Licken and the secret recipe were deliberately crafted.
The iconic nature of the figure is not in doubt . Consequently, the following sanctions are imposed on Chicken Licken by the Tribunal: the advertisement is to be withdrawn in its current format and Chicken Licken is also ordered to publish a summarised version of the ruling as prepared by the ASA in the medium in which the advertising complained of appeared. The costs of such publication will be for the account of Chicken Licken in terms of Clause 14.5 (sanctions) in the Procedural Guide.”
The Directorate is of the view that the same sanction applies to the matter at hand as the respondent deliberately portrayed Jesus, who is a central figure of the Christian religion in a comical and disrespectful manner.
The details of the sanction will be included below for future reference.
However, the Directorate specifically notes that the respondent does not have a pattern of disregard, and has not been before the ASA in recent years. Given this, the sanction detailed below is suspended for a period of six months from the date of this ruling.
Should an adverse ruling be made against the respondent in this suspension period, the sanction detailed below will automatically be invoked.
The complaints are therefore upheld, and the sanction imposed is suspended for six months from the date of this ruling, on condition that no further adverse rulings are made against the respondent.
Details of the sanction to be suspended
The respondent is ordered to flight the following summarised version of the ruling as a forty-five second television commercial in the medium in which the advertising complained of appeared and for the same frequency as per the booking schedule used when the commercial was placed. All relevant costs will be for the account of the respondent in terms of Clause 14.5
(Sanctions) of the Procedural Guide. The summarised ruling is to read as follows, and is to be read aloud during the statement, as well as to appear on-screen during the flighting/s:
“The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa recently ruled that Red Bull had breached the Code of Advertising Practice because of the offensive manner in which it portrayed Jesus Christ.
Red Bull’s withdrawal of the commercial was not seen as an adequate resolution, and the Authority pointed out that the commercial not only made fun of a basic tenet of the Christian religion, but referred to and utilised Jesus in a way that trivialised all events and teachings surrounding him.
The Authority felt that Red Bull could reasonably have foreseen the likelihood of offence.
The objections were upheld, and Red Bull instructed to prepare and flight this announcement at its own costs.
The Advertising Standards Authority. Protecting Your Standards”.
The respondent is also reminded of the provisions of Clause 14.9 of the Procedural Guide, which effectively deems any advertising that “is calculated to, or has the effect of undermining” a ruling of the ASA as a contravention of the Code.
In response to my Power Report column, “When hotels wish upon a star” http://bit.ly/yiHwBD that appeared in the Sunday Times, Business Times Money and Careers section on 4 March 2012, the Tourism Grading Council of SA says:
“Firstly, I would like to commend the journalist on the objective and well-researched article written detailing Claire Marketos’ unfortunate experience.
The Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) values this kind of consumer-driven feedback and highly regards it as one of the ways in which we will succeed as a tourism industry in addressing quality control standards that help boost South Africa’s international competitiveness as a tourist destination of choice.
My team and I manage a world-class quality assurance system that grades tourism accommodation establishments according to the services and facilities they provide, from One Star to Five Star, using stricter and more comprehensive Grading Criteria that were reviewed in 2010 with full co-operation and buy-in by the industry, making our work one of the very few great examples of excellent Public-Private Partnerships.
The TGCSA is the only organisation that is legally authorised to grant accommodation establishments this Star Quality Status which must be renewed on an annual basis.
Any entity using any marketing material related to any Star quality status when describing and marketing their tourism accommodation establishment without the authority of the TGCSA is doing so illegally and faces potential litigation by us and we have already briefed our attorneys on the property mentioned in your article. It is also critical to note that consumers are protected against misrepresentation through the Consumer Protection Act.
Exposing the unscrupulous use of Star Grading or Star Rating is certainly in the public interest, even more so as consumers are drawn towards value for money offerings in these tight economic times. We strongly appeal to travellers (both domestic and international) to continue exposing establishments that they believe are making fraudulent use of the TGCSA star grading, or that may have an official grading but who are not living up to the basic requirements, after they have been graded by us.
The TGCSA has embarked on a strong consumer focused campaign to educate and inform travellers of their rights and expectations regarding graded accommodation facilities throughout South Africa.
1. The Gold Plaque given by the TGCSA to each authorised establishment, which they proudly display on their property, provides the traveller with confidence and peace of mind that certain minimum requirements have been met in terms of services and facilities on offer.
a. Under the 3-Star Hotel and Lodge Category, for example, you can expect a formal reception area, on-site representative to be easily contactable around the clock, all bedrooms to have en-suite bathrooms, servicing of rooms 7-days a week (which includes linen/towel change, room cleaning), a TV and a telephone in the room, two pillows per person, a breakfast which includes hot and cold items served at the correct temperatures, among other things.
b. Under the 5-Star Hotel and Lodge Category, for example, you can expect all items listed above and much, much more including a valet service, 24-room service, concierge service, business centre, delivery of newspapers, full housekeeping and laundry services, etc, etc
c. For a consumer-friendly list of services and facilities expected in all Nine Categories and across all Five Quality Star Levels, we urge consumers to visit our website www.tourismgrading.co.za.
2. As part of our educational drive to limit unfortunate experiences from ruining the stay of trusting travellers and from ruining South Africa’s international competitiveness in this critical industry, we urge all travellers to take this 4-step approach when using tourism accommodation establishments around the country:
a. Visit our website and search for the establishment of your choice to check and confirm their grading status. If the search for the establishment comes back empty, this means the establishment has not been quality graded by the TGCSA and therefore their public proclamations of any Quality Star level is misleading.
b. While on our website, look, once again, at the list of facilities and services that should be on offer when you get there.
c. Once you are at the chosen establishment, do take note of the facilities and services that are not to your expectation during your stay and provide us with your valued feedback, via our feedback line, so we can protect Brand South Africa by facilitating and moderating the resolution of any issue raised in a professional manner. Such consumer feedback is not only handed over to the establishment for actioning, but kept on file for consideration when renewing the application for grading in the following year.
d. Naturally, we encourage consumers to use this same mechanism for positive feedback, which is always welcome and celebrated as indicative of our improving global standard of grading practices.
Here’s to wishing all our travellers a safe and memorable experience in our quality graded tourism accommodation establishments around the country.”
Ms Thembi Kunene
Chief Quality Assurance Officer
Tourism Grading Council of South Africa
On the eve of World Consumer Rights Day, a positive report from our Credit Ombud…
Having assisted thousands of consumers with their credit related matters, the office of the Credit Ombud has put back around R2.8 million in consumers’ pockets last year alone.
“This is money that consumers would have e had to pay over to their credit providers, had we not stepped in and assisted them to resolve their matters,’ says Credit Ombud Manie van Schalkwyk.
“In some cases consumers have had money paid back to them by the credit providers in instances where they had already made those deductions,” he adds.
Countries all over the world celebrate World Consumer Rights Day on 15 March. This year’s theme ‘Our money, our rights: campaigning for real choice in financial services’ falls right into the ambit of what the office of the Credit Ombud teaches consumers during their regular consumer education workshops. “We consistently advocate that consumers should always shop around for the best choice in credit options available to them before making their decisions,” says van Schalkwyk.
The office of the Credit Ombud has been assisting consumers with their credit related matters for eight years, having opened their office in 2004. In 2011 alone the office effectively dealt with 4 943 disputes.
“We have come a long way since 2004. We started off dealing only with credit bureau information disputes, but once the gap was identified in the non-bank credit and debt counselling areas, our office’s mandate was extended to also deal with these matters,” adds van Schalkwyk.
The services of the Credit Ombud are free of charge and consumers can contact the office on 0861 66 28 37 or email www.creditombud.org.za
As part of Consumer Rights Month, the National Credit Regulator (NCR) has urged consumers to be aware of their rights when it comes to credit agreements.
“It is your money and therefore, it is your right as a consumer to have full knowledge of all credit agreements you enter into,” says Education & Communications Manager at the NCR, Cornie Tema.
Internationally, the 15th of March is celebrated as World Consumer Rights Day. In South Africa, March is dubbed the Consumer Rights Month.
The National Credit Regulator in conjunction with the Consumer Protection Forum (CPF) is embarking on programmes aimed at educating South African consumers about their rights and obligations.
The CPF comprises of the National Credit Regulator, nine Provincial Consumer Affairs Directorates, the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS), Financial Services Board (FSB), Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to mention a few.
The international theme which has been adopted is “our money, our rights: campaigning for real choice in financial services”.
The National Credit Act (NCA) came into effect to level the playing field. Consumers have rights; however, they also have obligations when entering into credit agreements. Obligations such as honouring the terms and conditions of credit agreements they enter into.
“Drawing up a budget to assess whether you will be able to afford the credit you intend taking, comparing deals between credit providers and understanding the terms and conditions of credit agreements are important steps before signing a credit agreement”, says Tema.
He says when taking out credit, consumers should always ask for a pre-agreement statement and quotation which clearly shows the borrowed amount, deposit payable if any is needed, interest charged, period of repayment, date of first installment, date of last installment etc.
“Additional charges such as initiation fees, monthly service fees and credit life insurance should also be stated in the pre-agreement statement and quotation,” he adds.
Under the National Credit Act, consumers have the right to receive information and documents in plain, simple language.
“This means that the content, meaning and importance of the documents must be easy to understand.
“Consumers also have the right to receive any documents required in terms of the NCA in an official language of the consumer’s choice to the extent that it is reasonable having regard to usage, practicality, expense, regional circumstances and the balance of the needs and preferences of the population ordinarily served by the person required to deliver that document”, adds Tema.
“Do not sign unless you fully understand the content including the terms and conditions of the credit agreement.
“While the National Credit Act provides that every person has the right to apply for credit from any credit provider, it does not prevent credit providers from turning down your application.” However, if your application is declined, you have the right to be provided with reasons on why it was declined.
“Please note that the National Credit Act does not decline credit applications, it is merely an Act of Parliament enforced by the National Credit Regulator”, explains Tema.
“The credit provider should provide you with reasons on why they are declining.
“You also have a right to have information held about you treated confidentially. Therefore credit providers may only use information for the purpose which it was given for.”
Tema further explains that consumers have the right to access and challenge information held by a credit bureau.
“Consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report from any of the eleven registered credit bureaux when they request for it.” Additional credit reports can be accessed at a nominal fee of R20 excluding VAT.
“You also have the right to be informed if a credit provider intends to report negative information about you to a credit bureau before the credit provider actually does so.
“Therefore, it would be of benefit to all consumers to check their credit reports regularly to know what it entails. By checking your credit reports, you will be able to pick up if there’s any incorrect information on your credit report”, adds Tema.
He says one of the most important aspects of the National Credit Act is that it gives consumers the right to get assistance when they are over-indebted.
“If you are experiencing difficulty in servicing your debts, act as soon as possible,” he says.
“Don’t wait until you start receiving final demand letters. Speak to your credit providers soonest, preferably before defaulting”, says Tema.
He says the first step is to contact your credit provider to discuss your situation and negotiate an affordable repayment plan.
“If you cannot reach an agreement with your credit provider, contact a registered debt counsellor in your area for assistance soonest.
“Remember, you will not get any further credit whilst under debt counselling.
“Never skip your payments, even when you are under debt counselling. You should continue making payments, because if you do not pay, you could lose your house or your car”, concludes Tema.
Planning on buying your dream home? Before you sign an offer to purchase, read this latest advice from the Credit Ombud and find out how your credit record could scupper your best laid plans.
Many prospective homeowners have no idea how their credit records and the manner in which they previously serviced their monthly account obligations can affect their chances of owning their dream home.
“Some consumers are aware of the fact that credit bureau records will affect whether or not they will be granted a loan, but what most people do not know is to what extent their records may affect the terms of their home loans should they be granted one,” says Credit Ombud Manie van Schalkwyk.
Every credit active consumer has a credit rating which credit providers may use to determine the interest rate that they will charge a consumer to repay a loan. Your rating may also play a role in determining the amount of any deposit you may be required to pay as a prerequisite to the loan being granted.
Recent statistics released by the National Credit Regulator (NCR) reveal that credit bureaus currently hold records of 19.10 million credit-active consumers. Of this number, 74% of the total enquiries made on consumer records were from banks and other financial institutions.
Says van Schalkwyk, “Credit providers are obliged to determine your debt repayment history and your existing financial means and obligations as part of their affordability assessment prior to granting you credit. They do this by obtaining your credit records from the credit bureaus which they subscribe to.”
According to the NCR, the number of consumers with impaired records is 8.83 million. Having an impaired credit record does not have to be the end of your plans to purchase a home.
“Although it may take some time, there are steps you can take to improve or repair you records in order to stand a better chance at getting your home loan approved,” adds van Schalkwyk.
He advises consumers to do the following to assist in repairing their records:
• If you have defaults on your profile as a result of missing payments due to financial difficulties, pay all the accounts religiously – records of defaults will be removed from your profile after two years
• The manner in which you pay your accounts on a monthly basis reflects in your payment profile for five years, so ensure you pay your accounts regularly and your payment profile will reflect a good payment history
• Consumers should close off accounts that are fully paid up and no longer in use as these add to the number of accounts appearing on their credit report
Some consumers, regardless of having clean credit reports have at times had their applications for financing rejected by credit providers. One possible reason for this can be that the affordability assessment done by a credit provider shows that the consumer cannot afford the loan.
Having too many open accounts, even though they are paid up and no longer in use may also work against you.
“Potential credit providers can view a consumer who has too many open accounts, as high risk as the consumer technically has access to credit from those accounts. If a consumer decides to use those accounts in future, they can end up being over indebted and unable to service all their accounts,” cautions van Schalkwyk.
To avoid disappointment at a point where you have signed an offer to purchase for that dream home, get a copy of your credit report before applying for a home loan and, if necessary start taking the necessary steps to improve your credit rating.
Credit reports can be obtained from the various credit bureaus and every consumer is entitled to one free credit report once a year.
Consumers can contact the office of the Credit Ombud to lodge a dispute with regards to credit bureau matters on 0861 66 2837 or www.creditombud.org.za.