Victorian politician Ricky Muir has come out in support of a Beechworth Sweet Co’s television advertisement that featured an animated toy golliwog, labelling a decision by the Advertising Standards Board to uphold a complaint against the ad as “political correctness gone mad.”
Muir, a representative of the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party who appears unlikely to retain his Victorian Senate seat, posted a photo of him with his childhood toy golliwog named “Wally”, stating, “the sheer notion that somehow my childhood toy or mothers hobby is ‘racist’ is simply ridiculous”.
Speaking to SmartCompany, Muir says that the situation was “really political correctness gone mad” and that it was clear the advertisement was not intended to offend or hurt.
Get daily business news.
The latest stories, funding information, and expert advice. Free to sign up.
“The company had this in place for a very long time, it’s clear they mean no ill intent at all,” Muir says.
“It’s very disappointing to see this very extreme measure be made.”
Muir believes that the Beechworth Sweet Co should appeal the decision by the Ad Standards Board, and also encourages the company to seek public support.
“I’ve had lots of responses on social media, and many people agree that it’s nothing more than a doll and a fond childhood memory,” Muir says.
“My mother was a keen collector of golliwogs, I would go as far to say even a bit fanatical. At one point we did a count, and there were in excess of 200 dolls in the house.”
Muir says he is “disappointed” that one complaint could “stamp out the voice of the rest of the nation”.
“The people who dwell on this are those with a strong politically correct nature about them,” he says.
“It’s a childhood memory associated with fun and acceptance, as a child you don’t discriminate.”
New South Wales politician David Leyonhjelm was among those that commented on Muir’s post, expressing his support for the company’s advertisement saying it is “insane” to claim golliwogs were racist.
“For those who choose to take offence by assuming it is racist, I recommend they choose another feeling,” said Leyonhjelm.
The advertisement depicts an animated version of the confectionary company’s logo, which features a number of animals and toys surrounding a lolly jar with the golliwog character reaching in.
The complainant who contacted the Ad Standards Board said the golliwog is a “racist symbol” and it had “shocked me deeply.”
“I truly believe casual racism like this is so damaging to the community and this commercial should never be aired again,” said the complainant.
In their response to the complaint, the board agreed that the golliwog “represents a symbol that humiliates and ridicules a person on account of the colour of their skin” but clarified that the animation of the logo is the reason the advertisement was pulled down.
The board holds no jurisdiction over company logo designs.
After SmartCompany first reported on the board’s decision, a number of readers posted comments in support of the company and expressed their concerns over the board’s decision, also labelling it “political correctness gone mad.”
“I saw this complaint and immediately ordered online a quantity of sweets from the Beechworth Sweet Company. Strike back against political correctness gone mad with the most powerful weapon at your disposal – your own money,” said one commenter.
“Maybe everyone should buy a golliwog and sit it on the idiot that made this complaints doorstep. So many bad things happening in this world and they get offended by a golliwog, what a fool,” said another.
In response to the complaint, the Beechworth Sweet Co told the Ad Standards Board golliwogs “were very popular toys at the beginning of the 20th century and were characters in many children’s books.”
“We believe we represent gollies as part of happy childhood memories in a tasteful [and] respectful way,” the company said.
Beechworth Sweet Co has stopped the TV advertisement, pursuing “further correspondence regarding the processes and the possibility of a review”. On contacting the Advertising Standard’s Board, SmartCompany was told that there would be no public comment made until the case is resolved, implying that the company may be still pursuing a review of the decision.
Advertisers and marketers have a 10-day window to appeal board decisions after a ruling is made, and appealing costs advertisers $1000 or $2000 if they do not pay the Advertising Standards Bureau’s levy. An independent reviewer is assigned to undertake a review of the board’s decision.
A spokesperson from the Beechworth Sweet Co told SmartCompany the company plans to release a public statement on the matter tomorrow.