There’s been quite a controversy brewing back in Oz over the ABC banning part of a segment on, IMO, one of the most interesting TV shows to come out of Australia in the last couple of years — The Gruen Transfer.
For those unfamiliar with the show, it is essentially a humorous panel-style production which analyzes the media, advertising and marketing industries and how advertising is constructed. That description doesn’t really do it justice… they have basically managed to take a media analysis course from university and turn it into something that is enjoyed widely by a mainstream audience. Quite a feat.
One of the segments on the show is called “The Pitch”, where creatives from two opposing advertising agencies are given a difficult product or message to try and sell to the audience. In the past, they have had to sell all sorts of funny and silly things… one I can particularly remember included selling the idea for Australia to go to war with New Zealand. It caused a lot of controversy, but was also pretty hilarious. Here’s one of the ads from that “Pitch”, which took the same format as the New Zealand tourism ads and turned them around…
But this week, the ABC banned one of the pitches from being shown. I’ve obviously missed a lot of the media coverage about it, not being in Oz and all, but have seen a fair bit online. This week, the challenge presented to the pitchers was to create an ad to promote size acceptance.
The ad that was not banned, by JWT Melbourne, was IMO, the kinda offensive one. It was somewhat amusing, and in the fairly flippant style of Gruen, fitted in… but essentially the message it delivered was “fat people eat more, so they are helping the economy, so we should love them”, which harks back to that same old “fat people as gluttons” stereotype… it doesn’t do fat people any favors to perpetuate those stereotypes.
The ad that was banned, created by a freelancer working for The Foundry agency, was released online, at its own special website, to get around the ABC ban. I’m glad that Gruen didn’t just chicken out from making it available, and set something up that worked within the strict strict content guidelines the national broadcaster has to adhere to.
Anyway, here’s the ad. Obviously, since it was banned from the ABC and all, if you have a delicate disposition, don’t view it. It’s quite full on.
This ad is the far more effective campaign for the pitch this week, I believe. It shows that all discrimination is ugly, and it finally puts size discrimination up there on the same level as all those other horrible forms of discrimination that we now all know are socially unacceptable, even though, of course, those forms of discrimination still exist.
I can understand why the ABC banned it though, because being the government-and-hence-taxpayer-funded network, it has strong strong policies about airing things which are racist, homophobic, etc. Funnily enough, I bet there’s nothing in the innapropriate content policy about airing things which are fattist…
But the banning of this ad has also sparked debate about the size issue… everywhere. And unfortunately, for a nation where apparently most of us are overweight or obese now according to questionably BMI-based statistics, the debate seems to be heavily dominated by people saying fat people are lazy scum… a popular argument against this ad is that being overweight is a choice, while one’s race or religion is not a choice.
Well, I could choose to starve myself just as someone could choose to convert to Christianity or have sex with someone of the opposite sex. But if those choices are not happy ones, then what is the fucking point?
The creative behind the ad, Adam Hunt, has written a fantastic piece about why he produced it for the Mumberella blog, which you can read here. There’s also a great interview between Wil Anderson, the Gruen panel and Adam on the ad’s site. Just keep watching after the ad to see the debate.
I mean, obviously, this kind of ad could never really be screened on a commercial or government television network. But I think the tone in which the offensive “jokes” are presented makes it clear that HEY, this is an ad about unacceptable behavior.
But ultimately, the Pitch is about experimentation. And I feel glad that someone has finally had the balls to put this into the mainstream and say that fat discrimination is not OK. It’s an issue that never gets discussion in the mainstream media, particularly not in Australia where there isn’t the emerging size acceptance movement that is starting to have an impact in the States.
So what’s your take on it? Effective? Gone too far? Should I not even be typing this entry and spend eight hours a day on a treadmill until I can fit into a size 8?