Marketing

Can he fix it? No he can’t: Training provider slammed for showing “unsafe” workplace behaviour in ad

Broede Carmody /

The Advertising Standards Board has upheld a complaint against a television commercial that depicted a superhero tradie throwing chisels and shooting nail guns.

The advertisement, by course provider The Builders Academy, features a character called Bob who throws a chisel, jumps through the building site and fires two nail guns with expertise – all because he was trained at this particular education provider.

However, the ad standards board found the television commercial breached the advertising code because it “depicted material contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety in the workplace”.

Several complaints were filed with the advertising watchdog, focusing on the fact that the ad could encourage young men to act irresponsibly while on the job.

One person complained that the advertisement was inappropriate because “nail guns are dangerous” and the ad as “not a good look or example to kids”.

Another person wrote: “This is a dangerous and stupid representation of a job that needs skill and care. It portrays a gung-ho attitude that is similar to a video shooting game.”

In a statement given to the advertising watchdog, Builders Academy Australia said it acknowledged the breach and had since taken steps prior to confirmation of the breach to modify the ad.

“Specifically, we changed the ad by removing all instances where the nail gun is ‘shot’ incorrectly, perpetrating the ‘gung-ho’ attitude and replaced this scene with our builder Bob using the nails gun safely and responsibly.”

Michel Hogan, independent brand analyst and owner of Brandology, told SmartCompany she could perhaps see why people complained.

“Even though they [The Builders Academy] maintain that Bob is clearly not a real person, he’s actually not presented in that way,” she says.

“He looks like a regular guy, he’s not wearing a cape and he’s dressed as a tradie. If they had an animated guy on that building site I don’t think they would have had any complaints.”

Hogan also pointed out that in the version of the ad she had seen, there was not a disclaimer at the end warning people not to try what was shown in the commercial in the workplace.

“And that might seem like a silly thing, and I’m not saying they should have, but I find it interesting they didn’t include a disclaimer given their position is that it’s clearly not real,” she says.

However, Hogan remains unconvinced with the concerns that young men will copy the behaviour shown in the ad. After all, she says young men see this sort of behaviour in movies and games every day and do not act on it.

“I would doubt very much if any impressionable young man would look at his and say, ‘Wow if I trained at the The Builders Academy I will be able to shoot nail guns and throw chisels at people’,” she says.

“How concerned you are about safety on building sites would probably influence how strongly you reacted to the ad. If you have a personal experience or personal concern about that kind of situation I can see how you might react strongly.”

SmartCompany contacted The Builders Academy for comment, but they did not respond prior to publication.

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Broede Carmody

Broede Carmody is a former senior SmartCompany reporter. Previously, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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