Discount grocery chain Aldi has come under scrutiny from the Advertising Standards Board, after a television viewer complained a recent Aldi commercial uses inappropriate language and is offensive to Christians.
The ad was launched as part of Aldi’s “Like Brands. Only cheaper” campaign in June. It features a man dressed in a seagull costume, sitting on a chair next to a camping table. On the table are two bottles of tomato sauce, the cheaper of which is available from Aldi stores.
Sign up for SmartCompany newsletter.
Free to your inbox every weekday
The man says he likes both products but what he really loves is “living off the grid, baby”. He then leans back, falls off his chair and exclaims, but his words are beeped out.
Despite the beeping, one viewer complained to the Advertising Standards Board the “cursing” is only partially censored and the man clearly says the words “Jesus Christ”.
“This is extremely offensive and distressing to Christians,” the complainant said.
“Going by recent social statistics, Christians represent between 25-35% or higher of the population. Regardless that this name is used as an expletive daily in Australian pop culture, it nonetheless marginalises, offends and vilifies Christians by virtue of mistreating a name which is extremely sacred to those of the faith.”
“This deliberately insufficient attempt to ‘censor’ the words in the commercial demonstrates that this advertiser aims to normalise marginalising and vilifying this faith body,” the viewer added.
But Aldi responded to the complaint by telling the Ad Standards Board the words spoken in the ad are in fact “jeepers creepers” and the supermarket chain provided the board with an uncensored version of the ad to prove that point.
“The TVC [TV commercial] clearly does not discriminate or vilify anyone,” Aldi said.
“In our opinion, just because a member of the community may have thought they heard something does not mean that it is correct, and should be taken as evidence of it occurring.”
The advertising watchdog agreed with Aldi and ruled “the level of beeping means that there are many words the man could be saying”.
“There is no strong suggestion in the advertisement that the man is taking the Lord’s name in vain and … there was nothing else in the advertisement to suggest that the advertiser was trying to be insulting of or disrespectful to Christians,” the board said.
The board therefore found the ad did not breach the industry code of conduct as it does not discriminate against or vilify a particular person or section of the community. The board also found the ad does not feature strong, obscene or inappropriate language.
Marketing expert Michelle Gamble from Marketing Angels told SmartCompany this morning “it’s good to see the Advertising Standards Board using common sense”.
“But we live in the age of activism,” Gamble says.
“It is so easy to make a fuss these days and people often do. It is unfortunate because businesses are usually just trying to make a buck and create decent advertising.”
However, Gamble says these complaints do use the board’s resources and these resources could be better spent on “going after” advertisers who deliberately flout the rules.
SmartCompany contacted Aldi but did not receive a response prior to publication.