I was recently reading an article on the BBC about a base jumper who leapt off Snowdon and broke the record for the highest base jump in Wales.
A link within that article led me to another article entitled 'Base jumping' Macallan whisky advert banned, and that made me very sad indeed.
The advert showed a man jumping off a cliff, sprouting wings and flying away, all in the name of advertising a particular brand of whiskey. However, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received six complaints and subsequently banned the advert.
The ASA said:
We noted that at that point in the ads [where the man jumps off a cliff], there was no suggestion that the male character had any super-human attributes or powers, or that he was part of a mythical world.
… the impression that he was nervous about jumping and was building up the courage to do so.
In that context, we considered that the act of jumping off the cliff was very dangerous, potentially fatal, and consisted of extreme risk-taking behaviour.
That impression was compounded by the text 'Would you risk falling for the chance to fly?'
Just read that again and remember they’re talking about an advert here, not a public information film.
They went on to say the central message was:
… one of promoting risky or daring behaviour to reap possible rewards.
Although the character was not seen consuming alcohol at any point, we considered the ads made a clear association between an alcoholic product and potentially very dangerous, daring behaviour and concluded that they were irresponsible.
Quite how they arrived at that conclusion baffles me. Does anyone really believe that’s what the advert’s ‘central message’ is. It isn’t, the central message is that you might like to try their whiskey and here’s some clearly fictional nonsense to demonstrate how cool they think that would be.
The thing that leaves me astonished is that it seems we have to guard against people being so stupid that they might jump off a cliff as a result of this advert, that they might not think jumping off a cliff is unwise or that they might think they too will sprout wings halfway down and fly away.
Really? Is this the world we live in now? It’s the same world that has to write ‘May contain nuts’ on a bag of peanuts or point out to people that drinks made with boiling water ‘May be hot’. Sorry, but let natural selection do its job.
Presumably the half dozen people who complained actually felt like jumping off a cliff after watching this advert. Presumably they failed to recognise the advert as a fictional portrayal and considered the sprouting of wings to be somewhat common.
How many people, I wonder, had actually jumped off a cliff as a result of this advert before those half dozen saviours made their complaint? I suspect none. I suspect everyone other than the ASA and half a dozen people applied some common sense.
Some people might point to edge cases in relation to vulnerable people but I’m not interested.
I recognise there are vulnerable people in society and they should most certainly be helped, but if we’re going to legislate for every type of vulnerability then we need to ban lots of programmes, adverts, films and games. What about people who might think they’re Spiderman, for example? Or people who might be influenced to embark upon a murderous spree after watching Diagnosis Murder?
And if we’re going to legislate against stupidity we’ll be banning things from now until the end of time.
The worst of it is how we’re conditioned to accept this sort of thing these days. Undoubtedly there’ll be some people who’ll read this article and then mutter nasally that “Yes, but the responsible thing to do is …” or “If one person thinks about jumping off a cliff after seeing this advert it’s one too many” or “What if kids see it?”
But, again, I’m not interested. Such people have completely missed the ludicrous nature of these things and have a faulty sense of perspective.
Of course you also have to wonder about the ASA’s operating protocols when six out of however many million people who saw the advert are enough to trigger a ban. I suspect the ASA were covering their arses rather than applying common sense (or at least I hope so, for their sake).
They probably thought that if someone did jump off a cliff they might get the blame. That’s understandable in many ways because nothing’s anyone’s own fault anymore. It’s always somebody else’s fault: the telly’s fault, a company’s fault, the police’s fault, the school’s fault, the council’s fault, the government’s fault or, in this case, the ASA’s fault.
It’s a sorry state of affairs.
Anyway, that’s my weekend rant. I’m off to get the mallet from my toolbox, which I believe to be Mjölnir because it carried no warning to the contrary and the ASA didn’t step in and ban Screwfix to protect me. Then I plan to mount my goat-drawn chariot, leap off the roof and fly to Asgard. And if I end up in hospital, the builders of my house must shoulder some responsibility for putting such a high roof on it. They should have anticipated possible idiocy and mounted the roof at only six inches from the floor to protect me.
If you want more evidence that things have gone crackers, just look at what qualifies as front page news on the BBC website this weekend. Putin fell over on some ice — shock horror, what will we do? — and someone called Timea found a Kingsmill loaf of bread that consisted of nothing but crusts.
Then, in the morning, I just wanted some toast and to make sandwiches and I was just staring at it. I don't really understand how it can happen.
… said Timea.
I believe she’s still staring in disbelief at that same loaf now, petrified by the consequences.