Mark Sweney, Guardian (Manchester), May 13, 2009
A TV campaign for Cravendale milk that was accused of racism for showing a black-and-white cow stripped of its dark spots to make it “pure” has been cleared of breaching the advertising code.
The TV campaign, by the ad agency Wieden & Kennedy London, featured a black-and-white animated bull angrily demanding milk in a bar.
After it had cleaned out the bar of milk, the bartender opened a trapdoor to send the bull down a chute to the “Cravendale purity room”. As the bull passed signs saying “pure” and “purer” it was made brilliantly white through the removal of its black patches.
The Advertising Standards Authority received 10 complaints that the ad was offensive and could be interpreted as racist.
One further complaint to the ASA claimed that a Cravendale magazine ad, which featured a similar “purification” theme involving the animated bull, was similarly racist.
Arla Foods, which owns the Cravendale brand, said that the ads were meant to promote a filtration process that removes bacterial impurities.
The ads were designed to use “surreal metaphors” to tell consumers in an entertaining way the story of filtering. The bull coming back a “gleaming milk colour” and in a friendly mood was one such metaphor.
TV ad clearance body Clearcast said that the other characters in the ad, all traditional toy figurines, did not “demonstrate any behaviour towards the bull that was discriminatory”. In addition the characters “did their best to accommodate him and were driven to take action based on his demands rather than on his skin colour”.
In its ruling the ASA said that viewers were likely to understand that the black-and-white bulls in the ads were intended as a metaphor for milk and were “unlikely to interpret the visual representations of the purification process as being racist”.
The watchdog concluded that the ads were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence and did not find them in breach of the advertising code.