A still from the Thomas Jewellers TV ad
The Advertising Standards Board has rejected claims a Father’s Day television commercial vilified or discriminated against gay people.
The television spot, which first aired in August, features three men preparing to play golf. One man notices the new watch his friend is wearing, who tells him it is “from Thomas”. The two friends appear confused about who Thomas is, before a voiceover explains some of the watches on sale for Thomas Jewellers’ Father’s Day promotion.
One viewer complained to the advertising watchdog, saying the ad is “in very bad taste and is inappropriate” as it discriminates or vilifies gay people.
“I found this ad offensive as it is using and playing with the matter of gay people, also in a negative way,” the complainant said.
“It indicates discomfort and uncertainty of the friend. It shows it to be undesirable. At best it is having a joke about the man receiving [a] gift from another man i.e. ‘Thomas’.”
But the Advertising Standards Board found the advertisement created confusion about the identity of ‘Thomas’ in a “light-hearted way” and none of the characters vilified the owner of the new watch.
“It is clear to the audience that ‘Thomas’ is the jewellery store and not another man,” the board said in its ruling.
While the board said it appears the two confused friends think the owner of the new watch may be “disclosing something new about his sexuality”, they do not respond in a negative way.
“Even though the friends are confused they do not react negatively or in a derogatory way toward their friend and do not belittle him,” said the board.
Thomas Jewellers did not respond to the initial complaint and SmartCompany did not receive a response when it contacted the company this morning.
Melbourne University senior lecturer Dr Lauren Rosewarne, an expert on sexuality in advertising, told SmartCompany the Thomas Jewellers advertisement appears to play on language and the name of the brand, as opposed to ridiculing homosexual men.
“Advertising is all about achieving cut-through and getting noticed, and this ad plays on the Thomas Jewellers name and the idea that friends may not know everything about each other,” Rosewarne says.
Rosewarne says in many cases, complaints about advertisements come from what a viewer has read into the material, based on their own prejudices or preconceptions, instead of the actual content of the ad.
“That’s the problem with offence grounded in reading something into an ad that’s not there. You see it with complaints about the sexualisation of children. They say the child is in those particular clothes so they are being sexualised, but in reality, there are a few steps between that and sexualisation.”
Rosewarne says part of the “beauty of images is that they are open to interpretation” but that is “not the same thing as offence”.