An ad promoting a new ginger ale craft beer was pulled from Australian TV after the country’s Advertising Standards watchdog ruled that it “discriminated” and “vilified” people with red hair, Mumbrella reports.
A report by AdNews noted that redheads could be “mildly offended” by the campaign for Carlton and United Breweries’ (CUB) Rusty Yak Gingery Ale, which launched earlier this year. A TV commercial for the drink shows various redheads and the need to “stop the spread of the ‘ginger gene.’”
Sure enough, complaints flooded in, with one Change.org petition calling the ad “a direct attack on all redheads and their families.”
According to Advertising Standards’ report, consumers also accused the ad of being “offensive, racist, and encouraging bullying.”
“The campaign makes fun of people with ginger hair and portrays them in an inferior manner,” read another complaint.
CUB defended the ad as “affectionate, light-hearted, and humorous,” and noted that the fictitious “ginger gene” referred only to its beer, not actual redheads. CUB’s response also claimed that the ad could not be considered racist or discriminatory, arguing that red hair did not fall under race.
Advertising Standards disagreed, however.
“The panel considered that the advertisement referred to the ‘ginger gene’ and considered that in the context of this advertisement, red hair is referenced as a hereditary trait contained in genes,” it ruled. “The panel considered that DNA can be considered to be related to ancestry and descent and therefore considered that in this context the reference to people with red hair falls within the definition of race.”
While the panel also felt that redheads were generally portrayed positively in the commercial, the “stop the spread of the ginger gene” line was considered offensive.
“The phrase ‘stop the spread of the gene’ overstepped the line between being light-hearted humor and made a strong suggestion that an identifiable group of the population was to be considered unpopular,” it noted. “The majority of the panel considered the suggestion that the genetic trait needed to be stopped was a negative one, and considered that the most reasonable interpretation of this line was that having red hair was undesirable. The majority of the panel considered that the inclusion of this line in the advertisement was vilifying of people with red hair as it was likely to incite ridicule of people with red hair.”
Though it disagreed with the ruling, CUB agreed to remove the ad — a decision some redheads will surely celebrate.
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