The advertising watchdog has rejected a claim that a radio advertisement for Aldi whisky is racist, dismissing a listener’s complaint that the commercial unfairly targeted people from Scotland.
The radio advertisement opens with the sound of bagpipes playing before a man with a strong Scottish accent introduces himself as the head distiller of Aldi’s Highland Earl Scotch Whisky.
A woman with an English accent then talks over him and translates his words, despite the Scotsman’s protestations that he is speaking English.
One complainant found the advertisement personally affronting and told the Advertising Standards Board the ad is racist for implying the Scotsman cannot be understood.
“Advertisements like this perpetuate the stereotype that as a nation we cannot be understood,” the complainant said.
“This should be taken in the context of would it be acceptable to put an interpreter on an advert for an Aboriginal product? No! There would be uproar. Why is it acceptable to be racist towards the Scottish?”
Aldi responded to the complaint by saying the ad is part of a series of advertisements that are intended to be light-hearted and humorous.
“[The ads] highlight the provenance of ALDI’s liquor range though the highly distinctive accents of the producing region: France for ALDI’s Monsigny Champagne; New Zealand for ALDI’s Fraser Briggs Premium Lager; and in this case, Scotland for ALDI’s Highland Earl Whisky,” Aldi said.
The Ad Standards Board sided with Aldi and dismissed the complaint. The board said while making fun of a person’s accent is not necessarily acceptable, the ad in question does not make fun of a Scottish accent but rather plays on a common scenario whereby a strong accent can be difficult for some people to understand despite the same language being spoken.
The board previously dismissed a similar complaint against Patties Foods in 2011. In that case, the ad featured a voiceover that said: “Scots have never been very welcome on the Australian worksite.”
Nicole Reaney, director of InsideOut Public Relations told SmartCompany on Wednesday the case is an example of political correctness going to far.
“This ad can be seen as playful banter. As there is always an amusing rivalry between the Scotts and English,” she says.
“The spirit of the ad is a humorous approach on a relatable situation. There is no history of discrimination in our culture around this topic. Furthermore there is no history of that line of tension in our culture.”
However, Ms Reaney advises SMEs to be conscious of potentially offending customers when considering using humour in advertising.
“When creating advertising campaigns or selecting talent, companies should be mindful of any existing or historical cultural issues that may cause offence to some viewers or listeners,” she says.
“There is always a fine line when it comes to using humour and proper judgement should be used to determine if it could cause offence.”
SmartCompany contacted Aldi but the company declined to provide additional comment.