World Direct Mail Advertisement
Meeting 10 April 2012
Complainant: T. Briggs
Complaint: The direct mail advertisement for the World fashion store featured in a personally addressed postcard. The front of the postcard featured an image of a sandwich board which read
"DEAD PEOPLES THINGS FOR SALE".
The reserve of the postcard stated the following:
Don't let fashion die
One day only
Thursday 12th January 2012
Auckland Ponsonby Newmarket Wellington Sydney"
Complainant, T. Briggs, said:
I received mail in post on day of sale when we have no store in our city because it was broken in quakes.
Front of card incredibly bad taste. World don't sell second hand clothes so I cannot see the point of sandwich board. Christchurch has lost many loved ones.
The Chairman ruled that the following provisions were relevant:
Code of Ethics
Basic Principle 4: All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.
Rule 4: Decency - Advertisements should not contain anything which clearly offends against generally prevailing community standards taking into account the context, medium, audience and product (including services).
Rule 5: Offensiveness - Advertisements should not contain anything which in the light of generally prevailing community standards is likely to cause serious or widespread offence taking into account the context, medium, audience and product (including services).
The Advertiser, World, said:
With reference to your email in relation to a complaint received from a T. Briggs pertaining to a postcard we send to our database (which included the aforementioned person) to advertise the commencement of our much anticipated, twice annual sale on January 11th 2012.
I will answer the complainants email on a paragraph basis:
Q: Quote: "I received mail in post on day of sale when we have no store in our city because it was broken in quakes" unquote.
A: She is correct. We do no longer have a store in Christchurch, that is because it fell to the ground in the earthquake, however, we do have quite a lot of customers who live in the South Island, including Christchurch, who like to travel to both Wellington and Auckland to attend our VIP day sale, and also to shop with us at other times.
I was unaware that there was a Law forbidding companies to send postcards to their customer database when they do not physically have a store in that particular city, could you please point me to the piece of Legislation that states this, as I would find it riveting, to say the least.
We have national customers from Kaitaia to Invercargill, and international customers from London to Sydney and everywhere in between, WORLD has been operating for 24 years in May 2012. Does this mean we are now no longer, by Law, allowed to send information to customers who live outside the cities we have stores in? I would imagine not, as that would be plain silly.
I would also like to point out that we did not escape this earthquake unscathed. We lost everything in our store, not even a hanger was saved, our store fell to the ground and our Sales Assistant fell through the floor into the basement, and was very luckily pulled out by a neighbouring store owner who heard her cries for help. We, like the rest of New Zealand and the world, were horrified by what we saw, and had great empathy with those affected by this catastrophic event.
Even though we had no store left, all our staff remained on full pay. The Sales Assistant in question was re-located to our Wellington store when she had recovered, and did not find the postcard offensive in any way, and still works for the Company a year after the earthquake. If we thought for a minute it was offensive, we would never have done it, irreverent we are, stupid and heartless we are not
I would like to point out, the postcard featured a sandwich board which states: 'Dead peoples things for sale", it does NOT state: "Dead Christchurch peoples things for sale'.
The complainant seems to be under the illusion that we were unaffected by the quakes, and nothing could be further from the truth.
Q: Quote: "Front of card incredibly bad taste. World don't sell second hand clothes so cannot see the point of sandwich board" unquote.
A: I was not aware we could not sell second hand clothes if we so choose, we do sell second hand antiques and vintage items, which do include clothes, so again, she is misinformed.
We had 15,000 people on our database in January 2012 (grows every day) and this is the ONLY complaint we have received.
We are a fashion brand known for being irreverent, and if the complainant did not like the postcard, she only had to email and ask to be taken off the database, the same as if I am watching a TV programme I find offensive, I stand up, turn the TV off, and busy myself doing other things.
I have read the Advertising Codes of Practice as listed in your email:
Basic Principle 4
"All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to customers and society"
This was, I do not see how any one person can single it out to have been directed at one group or city.
Rule 4: "Decency
Advertisements should not contain anything which clearly offends against generally prevailing community standards taking into account the context, medium, audience and product (including services)"
The postcard did not do any of the above, as it did not refer to any one particular group of people, city, town, planet etc.
Advertisements should not contain anything which in the light of generally prevailing community standards
is likely to cause serious or widespread offence taking into account the context, medium, audience and
product (including services).
I feel if the postcard had breached ANY of the above, we would have had more than one complaint out of 15,000 sent, period.
In response to the advertising agency, there was not one, we do all our artwork in-house, and in 23 years of posters, postcards etc. have never had a single complaint, until this...
The Complaints Board carefully read all the correspondence in relation to the complaint and viewed a copy of the direct mail advertisement. It noted that in the Complainant's view the advertisement was inappropriate and offensive given the reference to dead people's things when Christchurch has suffered many loses due to the earthquakes, the city does not have a WORLD store and they do not sell second hand items.
The Chairman directed the Complaints Board to consider the advertisement with reference to Basic Principle 4 and Rules 4 and 5 of the Code of Ethics. This required the Complaints Board to consider whether the advertisement had been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility, whether it contained anything which clearly offended against generally prevailing community standards taking into account the context, medium, audience and product (including services), and/or whether it contained anything which was likely to cause serious or widespread offence in the light of generally prevailing community standards.
Turning to the advertisement the Complaints Board gave consideration to the context, medium and audience at which the advertisement was directed at, while also taking into consideration the nature of the product being advertised. The Complaints Board noted that the advertisement was part of a direct mail campaign which was personally addressed to those who were on the World database / mailing list. As such the Complaints Board said the advertisement only reached it's target audience, World shoppers, and if they no longer wanted to receive such advertisements they had the option of removing their details from the data base.
The Complaints Board noted the response of the Advertiser where it stated that they have "customers from Kaitaia to Invercargill, and international customers from London to Sydney and everywhere in between" and as such the advertisement had been sent to a wide spread of consumers and not just those in the Christchurch region which had suffered losses as a result of the earthquakes.
When referring the words which featured on the front of the advertisement, "Dead peoples things for sale", the Complaints Board noted the response of the Advertiser where it stated, "we do sell second hand antiques and vintage items, which do include clothes". While the Complaints Board said the words used were somewhat tasteless, the fact that there were vintage products sold provided some form of substance to the message conveyed, which it considered had been derived with an element of humour in mind taking into account the reference on the other side of the postcard to "Don't let fashion die".
On balance, while noting the sincere concerns of the Complainant, the Complaints Board said the nature and the context in which the advertisement was published, notably being a direct mail advertisement personally addressed to those who had voluntarily signed up to the Advertiser's database, the widespread audience (well beyond just Christchurch) and the inclusion of vintage products in the sale, combined to mean that the advertisement was unlikely to offend against generally prevailing community standards, nor was it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence in the light of generally prevailing community standards. As such the Complaints Board said the advertisement did not reach the threshold to breach Rules 4 or 5 of the Code of Ethics. It added that the advertisement had in its view been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility in accordance with Basic Principle 4 of the code of Ethics.
Accordingly, the Complaints Board ruled to not uphold the complaint.
Decision: Complaint Not Upheld