ASAI ban is dumber than a box of rocks

Voiceover in ad for ham uses phrase that is as common as muck in the southern US

Mater, a comedic rusty tow-truck, joyously utters the offending tornado phrase in Cars, the children’s box office smash hit from 2006

Mater, a comedic rusty tow-truck, joyously utters the offending tornado phrase in Cars, the children’s box office smash hit from 2006

 

Has nobody at the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) set foot in the US below the Mason-Dixon line?

The ASAI, the self-regulatory body for the advertising industry that deals with public complaints, on Wednesday rapped the knuckles of Kerry Group over a Deep South-themed television ad for Denny’s Fire and Smoke ham.

The voiceover drawled that the ham would leave customers’ tastebuds “happier than a tornado in a trailer park”. This is a common-as-muck phrase in the southern US, as anyone who has ever been there will tell you.

A few overly sensitive Irish souls – the ASAI did not say how many – complained to the regulator that because tornados can kill, the ad is offensive.

Pray tell: offensive to whom? Surely not to the complainants, as we don’t get killer tornados in Ireland and the ad wasn’t aired anywhere that does.

Were they taking offence on behalf of the 60 million or so citizens of the US who live near its various “tornado alleys”, many of whom hear or use the offending phrase on a daily basis?

How delicate have we really become? Remember, this is an ad for smoked ham.

Amazingly, the regulator agreed with the complaints and banned the ad as long as it contained the phrase, harrumphing that it was “unacceptable to make light of natural disasters”.

I once spent a boozy summer as a student in South Carolina. The locals there always seemed happier than tornados in trailer parks, or so they kept saying. That July, three twisters hit Myrtle Beach in one day, wrecking half the town. I watched one of them tear it up from the restaurant where I worked.

Carolinians still didn’t stop using the phrase. Unlike the ASAI, they understand it as a common simile, which according to the Oxford dictionary are usually vivid or emphatic. Nobody uses it to “make light of natural disasters”. It is simply a light-hearted saying, not a slur on tornado victims.

As far as regulatory decisions go, it was dumber than a box of rocks.

Would the ASAI consider “like a cat on a hot tin roof” offensive because a moggy with burned paws is tantamount to animal cruelty? On current form, who knows? What if a trilby ad depicted a guy being told he’s wearing a “killer hat”?

It has become a cliché to say it, but the western world is now awash with people who revel in taking offence at the merest thing. Regulators should know better than to indulge them.

To illustrate how stupid the ASAI’s decision is, the “tornado in a trailer park” saying was made famous outside the US by Cars, the 2006 Pixar children’s box office hit. Mater, a comedic rusty tow-truck, utters it in pure joy.

Novelist Don Bruns also uses the phrase in his book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Someone should drop a copy into the offices of the ASAI.

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