Someone complained to the ASA that a recent TV advert for Alton Towers about a new Nemesis ride suggested that the phrase 'your worst nightmare, underground' related to a black man seen in the ad, rather than an evil-looking egg that contains a new underground Nemesis ride.
I particularly like the bit where the complainant infers that a frightened woman is not running away from the frightening ride, but the black fella; his nostrils flared in racial anger.
Essentially, I just though this was really funny.
Two TV ads promoted a new theme park ride:
Ad (a) showed two young girls playing marbles. One marble rolled away and fell down a drain before landing on a large egg which was in a dark underground cavern with flickering electric lights. The egg cracked and a bright light shone from inside it. There was a close-up of a black man's wide open eyes and his nose. Another close-up showed a lizard-like, reptilian eye opening. Various shots showed people screaming and a close-up of a white character's eye open wide. A white woman ran down an underground passage, looking nervously over her shoulder, and closed a door behind her. The voice-over stated "The Nemesis legend continues. Nemesis Sub Terra. Your worst nightmare, underground."
Ad (b) also showed the large egg in the underground cavern with flickering lights. There was a longer shot showing the black man's eyes and nose in close up and on-screen text alongside his face stated "YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE, UNDERGROUND".
The complainant believed that the ads portrayed the black man as threatening and therefore objected that the ad was racist and offensive. He claimed that the black man's nostrils were flared as if in anger and that ad (a) could be seen to imply that the white woman in the subsequent shot was running away from the black man. He was also concerned that the text "YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE, UNDERGROUND" appeared alongside the shot of the black character's face in ad (b).
Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd (Merlin) said both ads were a continuation of the legend of the original Nemesis rollercoaster which positioned the ride as an alien creature. The ads for the new ride, Nemesis Sub-Terra, showed that Nemesis had laid an egg which had been dormant underground. They said in ad (a) the marble which rolled away from the two girls cracked the egg causing it to hatch and release the alien. They said shots of the egg shaking/breaking and the alien itself, were interspersed with numerous others of individuals reacting, in fear, as the alien egg hatched. They argued that the phrase "YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE, UNDERGROUND" was a consistent tagline, used in both ads, and therefore clearly referred to the newly hatched alien rather than the black man in ad (b).
Merlin said they shot a number of actors reacting to the egg hatching, both male and female and of different ethnicities. They said all the actors were instructed to look nervous and scared. They emphasised the fact that the shot of the black actor was chosen because he gave one of the best reactions. They refuted the claim that the black man was threatening and that his nostrils were "flared as if in anger". Instead they argued that he displayed the same emotions of fear and panic as the other actors in the ad.
Merlin argued that, in ad (a), the reactions of the people surrounding the egg, which included the black man and the white woman running down the underground passage, were all expressions of fear as the alien hatched from the egg. They did not believe that the ad suggested that the woman was running away in fear from the black man.
Clearcast strongly endorsed Merlin's comments and did not believe the ads were racist or offensive. They felt that it was clear from the ad that the nemesis, and therefore the cause of fear, was the egg and its contents. They argued that the shot of the alien eye that was seen just after the startled look on the black man's face confirmed that.
Clearcast argued that the shot of the black man was chosen because of his surprised reaction and that the shot of the woman running was chosen because it echoed "a commonly accepted vignette in horror films" of a damsel in distress fleeing from an evil alien.
The ASA considered that in the context of both ads, the shots of the egg shaking and cracking which preceded the close-up of the black man's face, would lead the viewer to believe that the black man's expression portrayed fear and shock as a result of watching the alien emerge, rather than anger.
Although the black man was the only character that featured in ad (b), the same shot of his face (intending to portray fear) was used, and given the long shot of the egg starting to hatch which preceded the close-up of his face, we considered that the accompanying words "YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE, UNDERGROUND" would generally be understood to refer to the hatching alien rather than the black man.
While we understood that the complainant felt that in the ad (a), the shot of the white woman running down the passage could be interpreted as her fleeing from the black man in fear, we noted that the shot of the black man's face was followed by shots of the alien's eye and other characters screaming and looking scared, before the longer shot of the woman running away in fear. We therefore considered that most viewers would believe that the woman was running away from the hatching alien.
We considered that most viewers would be likely to see the black man's race as incidental to the narrative of the ads. We also considered that most viewers would interpret the black man's facial expression in both ads as fearful and would understand that he, like the other human characters in ad (a), was afraid of the hatching egg and the alien inside. We therefore concluded that the ad was unlikely to be seen as racist and unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
We investigated the ads under BCAP Code rule 4.2 (Harm and offence) but did not find them in breach.
Result: Not upheld
I have a lot of time for bees. They are cool. They are placid. They make honey. They are slightly ridiculous (seriously, a bumblebee? Ridiculous!). And humans genuinely couldn't survive without them - seriously. Bees die out; humans starve. So never kill a bee, it's not cool.
Unless it's one of the bees in the Vodafone adverts, quite the worst current example of dopey, charmless, deeply unfunny anthropomorphism on TV screens.
If bees were like this we'd squish the fuckers on the windows, spray chemicals on them until they stopped moving and stamp their guts out.
These adverts are awful. So awful they could make me hate bees. Here are a few things that wouldn't seem so bad if bees were like these Vodafone hymenopteric arseholes:
Deformed wing virus
Deformed wing virus (DWV) is suspected of causing the wing and abdominal deformities often found on adult honeybees in colonies infested with Varroa mites. These symptoms include damaged appendages, particularly stubby, useless wings, shortened, rounded abdomens, miscoloring and paralysis. Symptomatic bees have severely reduced life-span (less than 48 hours usually) and are typically expelled from the hive.
Melissococcus plutonius is a bacterium that infests the mid-gut of an infected bee larva. European foulbrood is less deadly to a colony than American foulbrood. Melissococcus plutonius does not form spores, though it can overwinter on comb. Symptoms include dead and dying larvae which can appear curled upwards, brown or yellow, melted or deflated with tracheal tubes more apparent, and/or dried out and rubbery.
Ascosphaera apis is a fungal disease that infests the gut of the larva. The fungus will compete with the larva for food, ultimately causing it to starve. The fungus will then go on to consume the rest of the larva's body, causing it to appear white and 'chalky'.
Nosema apis is a microsporidian that invades the intestinal tracts of adult bees and causes nosema disease, also known as nosemosis. Nosema is also associated with Black queen-cell virus. Nosema is normally only a problem when the bees can not leave the hive to eliminate waste (for example, during an extended cold spell in winter or when the hives are enclosed in a wintering barn). When the bees are unable to void (cleansing flights), they can develop dysentery.
Acarine (Tracheal) mites
Acarapis woodi is a small parasitic mite that infests the airways of the honey bee.
Varroa destructor and Varroa jacobsoni are parasitic mites that feed off the bodily fluids of adult, pupal and larval bees. Varroa mites can be seen with the naked eye as a small red or brown spot on the bee's thorax. Varroa are carriers for a virus that is particularly damaging to the bees. Bees that are infected with this virus during their development will often have visibly deformed wings.
Chronic Paralysis Virus [CPV]
▪ Syndrome 1 Abnormal trembling of the wings and body. The bees cannot fly and often crawl on the ground and up plant stems. In some cases the crawling bees can be in large numbers (1000+). The bees huddle together on the top of the cluster or on the top bars of the hive. They may have bloated abdomens due to distension of the honey sac. The wings are partially spread or dislocated.
▪ Syndrome 2 Affected bees are able to fly but are almost hairless. They appear dark or black and look smaller. They have a relatively broad abdomen. They are often nibbled by older bees in the colony and this may be the cause of the hairlessness. They are hindered at the entrance to the hive by the guard bees. A few days after infection trembling begins. They then become flightless and soon die.
Deformed Wing Virus (DWV)
As indicated by the name, this virus produces deformed wings. Typically associated with Varroa destructor, it has been suggested as a contributing factor to Colony Collapse Disorder. This deformity can clearly be seen on the honeybee's wings. As a result, bees are unable to leave the hive and forage for pollen and nectar, possibly leading to the colony starving.
Dysentery is a condition resulting from a combination of long periods of inability to make cleansing flights (generally due to cold weather) and food stores which contain a high proportion of indigestible matter. As a bee's gut becomes engorged with feces that cannot be voided in flight as preferred by the bees, the bee voids within the hive. When enough bees do this the hive population rapidly collapses and death of the colony results.
Colony Collapse Disorder
Colony Collapse Disorder (or CCD) is a little-understood phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or Western honey bee colony abruptly disappear.
All bee info from Wikipedia
I have a a real hatred for adverts that pander to volume lager drinkers as they're almost always without wit, humour or any sort of acknowledgement that people who actually choose to go to a pub a sup a pint of Carling, Carlsberg or Fosters are bell-ends.
It should come as no surprise that there's usually something deeply dumb about these ads, most of which have some sort of relationship to footy and, thus, hints of Eng-er-land-style racism. This is the response form the target demographic these ads are seeking:
"Quality mate! Fucking quality! Quality banter! Fucking banter! Quality!"
The approach of the European Championships means that we'll probably have a glut of such adverts coming up, showing a trio of gormless berks grinning, cross-eyed and slack-jawed at a plasma screen.
Carlsberg's Fan Camp ads led me to ponder a few ruled for these sort of ads and the thinking behind them. As it goes it's not a bad effort, with some amusing elements and a dash of self-awareness. That said it's clearly hideous, because it's bridging the idiot gap of cheap lager and football.
Anyway, here's my list of rules for making a volume lager ad when there's a footy tournament on:
Any group of lads is best kept to three. Two blokes together might be homosexuals; more than three whiffs of a gang of lager louts. One bloke drinking alone suggests there's something sad about drinking, not to mention the spectre of alcoholism.
They must not be especially good-looking, nor must they be ugly. One who's a bit fat and one who looks a bit of a dweeb is a good. Make sure there are some black fellas in there somewhere too. They must all look like they're called Dave if possible.
Round up a collection of former England stars. Ones that are likely to appeal to people who drink a lot of lager are good. Stuart Pearce, Gazza, Terry Butcher - people like that.
You will also need some bona fide England legends, whether footballing or not. The Charltons, Ian Botham, Redgrave - people like that. A smattering of other recognisable Brits like Steve Davis, Phil Taylor, Des Lynam, Kelly Holmes are also acceptable.
Give some thought to referencing someone who's actually dead in an effort to sell your shit lager. Bobby Robson and Bobby Moore have appeared in previous ads.
Try to get some England 1966 shirts involved somewhere.
Have some sort of identifiably English music. Jerusalem should do it. Or else some modern-day landfill indie rock. Kasabian, Hard Fi etc. Failing that something ironic: Dad's Army etc.
Imply that football is somehow akin to war, battle and glory.
Get Ian Wright gibbering like a twat.
Align your lager with England – even if it's not remotely English (ref. Carlsberg).
Plenty of St George's flags. You may or may not tie this in with a vague xenophobia - 'make them regret the day they took on England' - at this point.
Stick to those rules, chuck half a million quid at it and you should have an ad capable of being indistinguishable from everyone else's – and ensuring you sell eight per cent more pints of gassy, chemicaly idiot pop.
Drinks all round, I think!
PS. Here's one that only follows a few of the rules:
Kia's use of Sexy Zebras' (FFS)
Nouvelle Vague's cover of The Undertones Buzzcocks' Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't) in its new advert for the 2012 Cee'd earns it a spots in the Crimes Against Music files.