Dick Smith fights advertising board ‘censorship’ over rejected TV ad
Entrepreneur Dick Smith is fuming an ad for his all-Aussie food company that plays on his famous moniker has been rejected by the Advertising Standards Board for prime-time broadcast. And he’s told Crikey he’ll go to the High Court to fight the attempt at “censorship”.
The ad posted to YouTube — produced by TV comedian Dan Ilic for $10,000 — features a cast of characters from farmers to boat people exclaiming their love of “Dick”. One nanna states: “There’s only one Dick I’ll be [beep] on Australia Day.”
Smith booked $100,000 in air time from the TV networks to broadcast the ad during 6pm news bulletins on Australia Day. But the Advertising Standards Board gave the one-minute spot a PG rating — not the G rating needed for early-evening programming.
“Apparently you can’t have lovely old ladies saying ‘Dick’,” Smith said this morning after hearing of the decision, fresh from a business trip to China.
Smith says he’s talking to lawyers about what can be done. He’s not prepared to censor the “completely harmless” ad or air it later in the evening.
“I’m angry. I don’t like things being censored when it’s just good fun,” he said. Of the Advertising Standards Board he said: “I think there’s something wrong with them.”
Smith, fed up with the mileage Sam Kekovich was getting for his dinky dye ads promoting lamb, approached TV guru Andrew Denton to have the Chaser crew make a similar ad. Denton connected Smith with Ilic, who has worked on the Denton-produced Can Of Worms and Hungry Beast.
“I got a call from Dick Smith out of the blue just before Christmas. ‘Dan, I got your number from Andrew Denton, I want to make an ad.’ Why not? He’s an Australian legend. Sounds like fun.
“So I wrote the funniest script I thought I could muster on our tiny $10k budget. Then convinced Dick that it’d be fine to run with the innuendo and the boat people joke. (Which is my favourite considering Dick’s stance on population control.)
“So we shot it in two day (sic), and after another four days in post … and thought it was pretty funny. There was one group that didn’t think it was funny. The CAD approval people.”
Ilic says Smith was “furious, incredibly upset”. He posted a barrage of texts he received from the former Australian of the Year:
But Smith told Crikey it’s not Ilic but the Advertising Standards Board he wants to fight.
It’s the latest in a series of stunts Smith has pulled to promote his branded grocery products against the foreign-owned food giants. The non-profit enterprise donates profits to charity.
CORRECTION: An original version of this story stated the decision to classify advertisements came from the Advertising Standards Board. Classification of advertising material is actually performed by FreeTV's Commercials Advice (CAD) service. The Advertising Standards Board had no role in classifying the Dick Smith material.
This article first appeared on Crikey.