J. Walter Thompson is remaining tight-lipped over the furore about
allegedly racist images in its current Persil ad. More than 30 viewers
complained that the ad suggested white was superior to black.
One scene shows a dalmatian shaking off its black spots, while another
features an ice-skater dressed in white speeding away from his
companions dressed in black.
The Independent Television Commission decided that for most people the
performance of washing powder on white clothes was an important test of
its effectiveness and concluded that the ad was unlikely to offend the
majority of viewers.
However, the ITC advised the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre to
consider carefully images or references that could be misconstrued as
JWT referred all calls on the matter to Lever Brothers, Persil's
manufacturer, which welcomed the ITC's decision not to uphold the
complaints, but pledged to heed the watchdog's advice on the use of
potentially racist imagery.
Meanwhile, a TBWA ad for Nissan, which featured voo-doo imagery,
attracted 116 complaints from viewers who found the ad distasteful and
The Nissan commercial, the latest in the 'Ask before you borrow it'
series, features a woman sticking pins into a doll that resembles her
boyfriend. The man is then shown driving a Nissan Micra and feeling pain
very time a pin goes into the doll.
The complainants felt that any advertising concerned with voodoo was
unacceptable on television. Just under 30 viewers were worried that the
ad would encourage children to believe in voodoo powers, 17 felt that
the ad was offensive to Christianity and 14 expressed belief in the
powers and dangers of voodoo practices.
The ITC admitted that it was surprised by the level of complaints and
invited a number of complainants to expand on their comments. The ITC
noted that the ad was intended to be light-hearted and did not uphold
the complaints, but it admitted that it would have been preferable for
the ad to have been scheduled after the watershed.