An ad featuring an overloaded power board has attracted the ire of the ad watchdog, after viewers complained the Thirsty Camel TV commercial could lead to copycat behaviour and “cause a fatal house fire”.
It is the latest ad to fall foul of the watchdog for promoting unsafe behaviour, after a West Australian small business was reprimanded for a similar breach of health and safety standards last month, promoting the business’ owners to lash out at the regulator.
The ad by bottle shop chain Thirsty Camel features a man connecting a plug to an already overloaded power board, sitting in front of a wall covered in heating devices such as radiators, heaters and irons. A voiceover describes “how Australians are thirsty people…. And no matter how you work up a thirst, Thirsty Camel has thirst quenching specials”.
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The Advertising Standards Board received two separate complaints over the ad, which damned the commercial as “irresponsible”.
“They are putting too many appliances in to one power board, this can cause fires, as things are as it is with the fires in SA and VIC, I am offended by this inconsideration,” said one complainant.
“Surely this is irresponsible and could cause someone to copycat and cause a fatal house fire,” said the other.
In response to the complaint, Thirsty Camel defended the ad as depicting “surreal caricatures of a person working up a thirst”.
“The scene in question, ‘Sauna’, is designed to be an extreme, fantasy interpretation of the well-known strategy of getting hot in order to work up a thirst. In no way is it intended to be desirable or encourage imitation by the general community,” said the bottle shop chain.
Thirsty Camel also argued it would be impossible to run so many heaters off a domestic power point in reality.
“We were showing an impossibility and, as such, we were confident that we weren’t depicting a hazardous situation because one couldn’t replicate it,” Thirsty Camel said.
But the board found, although the advertisement was exaggerated, it was “not sufficiently unrealistic to overcome the depiction of unsafe practices with electrical equipment”.
Finding the ad did depict material contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety, the board upheld the complaints.
In response, Thirsty Camel told the ASB it intends to modify the advertisement in compliance with the board’s determination.
Digital marketing expert Michelle Gamble, from Marketing Angels, told SmartCompany advertisers must consider context when featuring unsafe behaviour.
“Context is the key. If you do feature unsafe behaviour, you have to make it clear that you are not not recommending people do it themselves,” says Gamble.
Gamble uses the example of the recent Budget Direct ‘Captain Risky’ ads which feature a daredevil undertaking high-risk activities but make it clear the company will not insure people who undertake ‘risky’ behaviour.
“I think advertisers do have a responsibility, especially if they are targeting young people or people that take risks – and you can argue Thirsty Camel is to a certain extent – to not put things in ads that are likely to encourage things that are dangerous to themselves or others,” Gamble says.
SmartCompany contacted Thirsty Camel but did not receive a response prior to publication.
The Thirsty Camel ‘power points’ TVC