Advertising agency Twenty20 has criticised the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) in a statement announcing they were stopping the screening of a television commercial they created for liquor store Thirsty Camel.

The ASB ruled that the ‘Hump’ TVC breached the advertising code on the grounds it portrayed violence and endorsed vandalism.

“It seems to me that rather than reinforcing social values, the ABS are dabbling in social engineering,” says Twenty20’s creative director Fysh Rutherford. “They’re not reflecting community attitudes, they’re trying to shape them with their moral judgements,” he said.

“The ABS would like us to stop thinking, to stop doing certain things, in case we might influence society. Do we really believe that people watching this ad will be compelled to commit acts of violence and vandalism? Of course not. The ad’s not exploiting society in any way.”

Thirsty Camel’s marketing communications manager, Leah Menzies, was also annoyed by the ban, saying the ad was consistent with Thirsty Camel’s well-known brand ‘irreverance’ and was not going to be taken seriously.

“The 'vandalism' our ad was banned for is inspired by street art, which is prolific in Melbourne and around the world, and is actually a recognised and popular art form within our target market,” she said.

“The core brand value of Thirsty Camel is irreverence. It might be seen as a little controversial sometimes but it’s always well-meaning. The HUMP stickers we used were immediately removed after filming finished. We didn’t set out to offend and we certainly didn’t aim to endorse violence.”

 

The ad depicts two hooded figures plastering stickers of the word “hump” over street signs, letter boxes and vehicles under the cover of darkness to create phrases such as “Hump On Red Signal,” “Express Hump” and “Man Hump A Van”, before retreating into a Thirsty Camel Bottleshop.

The ASB was responding to complaints that the ad endorsed the vandalism of public signs with potentially dangerous results. Some of the complaints included, “I believe it is glorifying graffiti which is a public nuisance and against the law,” and that it “Generally promotes anti-social behaviour, vandalism and underage drinking.”

An “edited” version has since been released online, with the black “HUMP” stickers being obscured by black “HUMP” censor bars, in an apparent mocking of censorship. Thirsty Camel is not dropping the cause, asking its Facebook followers whether street art should be considered vandalism

Interestingly, the ASB dismissed a case against a poster advertisement from the same campaign that complained about the vulgarity of the word “hump”.

The original commercial

The edited version, following ASB ruling

 

Do you think this ad endorses vandalism and portrays violence? Is it a wise move for Thirsty Camel to open a discussion on the legality of ‘street art’ that is designed to look like a grassroots movement but is actually bankrolled by a major liquor chain store? Drop a comment below or connect with us on Twitter via @MarketingMag.