Posted on May 11, 2006

‘Racist’ Ad Forced Off Air After 9 Months

Anna Vlach, Advertiser (Adelaide, Australia), May 5, 2006

The Royal Automobile Association has been forced to withdraw a popular television commercial after the Advertising Standards Board voted to uphold a single complaint that it was racist.

The “Which deli?” advertisement, which has aired for more than nine months, showed George, played by actor George Kapiniaris, telling cafe owner Trevor about the service provided by a call centre operator from New Delhi, India.

The person who complained about the ad alleged the RAA explicitly used New Delhi “to show that service from India is bad compared to Australia”. It was also claimed the ad made a joke of possible cultural and social difference and was “degrading the country of India”.

Bureau chief executive Fiona Jolly said the Board had been split on its decision last month with the chairman deciding to uphold the complaint, meaning the advertisement would have to be modified or discontinued. It asked that the case report indicate members were strongly divided on the outcome.

The majority of the board agreed “this advertisement, by emphasising the Indian race and location of the operator in connection with a portrayal of poor service, with a depiction of material that vilified Indian call centre operators”.

The minority said the “advertisement was a humorous depiction of a common frustration felt by many people at having service calls answered by overseas call centre operators and was not racist”.

RAA public relations manager Adam Thomson said the motoring body was “offended by the implication that one of its successful and popular television advertisements was deemed to contain inappropriate material”. Market research had shown the advertisement was in fact popular with viewers, Mr Thomson said.

“It is common knowledge that people are becoming increasingly frustrated by evening interruptions from overseas call centres,” he said.

“The advertisement reinforced that the RAA is proudly South Australian, and offers a locally based call centre that the SA community can contact and speak with someone who lives in the State, and knows the local environment.”