14 May 2009

Gruen Transfer censored by ABC management

ABC TV's program about advertising The Gruen Transfer is one of my favourites. I've also bought the season 1 DVD . One regular segment, The Pitch , sets two advertising people against each other to devise ads to sell the unsellable, eg going to war with New Zealand ('100% there for the taking"), reviving the Australian Democrats and promoting child labour. For some examples see here .

Last night's topic was Fat Pride. One of the ads, which featured four jokes which I expect most people would place somewhere on the spectrum of politically incorrect to extremely offensive, was removed from the show before it went to air. It can be viewed, prefaced by an explanatory note and a warning and followed by an extended discussion between the panel and the ad's creator here.

Here's an extract from the explanatory note:

This segment of The Gruen Transfer was scheduled to appear on the ABC-TV program on May 13, 2009. It was not approved for broadcast by the ABC. We are grateful for the ABC’s consent for us to put the material on this website, as it facilitates further debate and discussion.

This is a confronting ad. We at Gruen feel that it may be offensive to some people, but we stand by the fact that The Foundry agency made it with a considered and legitimate intent to persuade Australians to reconsider their prejudices.

It is clearly an anti-discrimination ad, an argument for tolerance, not divisiveness. As road safety advertisements sometimes use horrific accident images to make a point, so too this ad uses shock to drive home the ugliness of prejudice. It was made by a highly experienced advertising creative, winner of a Cannes Gold Lion, one of advertising’s greatest honours, for a previous anti-discrimination campaign.

As a show about advertising, we feel that it is appropriate for an audience, with fair warning, to consider and judge the ad for itself. And so we are making it available for viewing through this site.

To provide a clear context for the ad,The Foundry and JWT agencies were asked to come up with a campaign for the idea of Fat Pride, to end shape discrimination and make overweight Australians feel less humiliated by the constant public disapproval of anyone who isn’t a size 10 or under.

After watching the video and the discussion I concur with the ABC's decision to pull the ad from the program. It's not so much the end (promoting a non PC topic like Fat Pride) as the means to which I object. IMO there needs to be some link between what - images, language, content - could reasonably be shown on TV (not necessarily prime time TV). In this instance I believe that the content (the jokes) did not meet this standard, whereas the segment which was shown on the program (and which was adjudged the winner by the panel) did.

I do, however, agree that it was right to make the video and the discussion available online. The publicity which has ensued will probably see more people watching it online than would have watched the program, but everyone who does so at least makes a conscious choice to do so, for whatever reason.

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