The iconic Beechworth lolly shop has withdrawn a television ad featuring a toy golliwog after the advertising watchdog ruled the character “represents a symbol that humiliates and ridicules”.
The Beechworth Sweet Co’s advertisement depicted an animated version of its logo, which is made up of a toy golliwog and toy animals, along with old-fashioned confectionery.
The golliwog toy has been part of the Beechworth lolly shop’s logo since 1992.
In a complaint to the Advertising Standards Board, one person said the depiction of the golliwog was offensive.
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“It shocked me deeply, this is a racist symbol,” the person wrote.
“In 2016 the image of a golliwog on television is completely inexcusable. I truly believe casual racism like this is so damaging to the community and this commercial should never be aired again.”
Beechworth lolly shop says it never intended to offend people
In response, The Beechworth Sweet Co told the advertising watchdog it never intended to be racist or offend anyone.
“The Beechworth Sweet Co believes the logo represents childhood memories, eg. toys, pets and old fashioned confectionery,” the business said.
“Golliwogs, now referred to as gollies, 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 lolly shop confirmed it sold golliwog toys in store to “lovers and collectors of gollies or to people buying gifts for young children”.
“Every sale I have made of a gollie has been because it provokes positive memories of their childhood love for their gollie and the wish to pass that love to a child,” the business said.
However, the advertising watchdog said while there is an element of positive nostalgia for some people when it comes to the dolls, they are considered offensive because of “historical racist connotations”.
In other words, the board said community attitudes have changed.
“The board considered that the use of the animated golly character represents a symbol that humiliates and ridicules a person on account of the colour of their skin,” the watchdog ruled.
As a result, The Beechworth Sweet Co said it has suspended the TV advertisement in question pending “further correspondence regarding the processes and the possibility of a review”.
Meanwhile, it appears the ad would not have been struck down had the golly character not been animated.
As the Ad Standards Board itself said, the advertising watchdog has no jurisdiction over the design of a company’s logo.
However, by making the golliwog hand move in the ad in its final scene, the Beechworth lolly shop was deemed to have drawn “specific attention” to the doll.
Brands need to understand how community attitudes change over time
Michelle Gamble, marketing expert and founder of Marketing Angels, told SmartCompany businesses need to regularly review their advertising and logos, even if they’ve been around for a long time.
“You still need to move with the market,” Gamble says.
“I do feel some empathy for them because, perhaps naively, they haven’t done that. You can still have a nostalgic brand, but you do need to be careful about not offending people. It [the logo] clearly did if someone complained.”
SmartCompany contacted The Beechworth Sweet Co for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.