Consumers haul Budget Insurance to advertising watchdog for 'offensive' advert

10 October 2021 - 12:50
By Belinda Pheto
The advertising watchdog has ordered the insurer to flight its adverts at a time when children are less likely to be watching.
Image: 123RF/CONVISUM The advertising watchdog has ordered the insurer to flight its adverts at a time when children are less likely to be watching.

“Don’t beeetch, sweeetch!” is not offensive, but children should not see it on TV. This is the Advertising Regulatory Board's finding on a Budget Insurance TV advert.

The watchdog received three complaints from people who found the advert offensive. 

The complaints were about the TV advert's pay-off line “Don’t beeetch, sweeetch!”

It features various scenes in which several characters, of various races and genders, complain to another person about the cost of their insurance.

One complainant pointed out that regardless of the humorous spelling, the word is still used in place of the more vulgar word and suggested that allowing this means that other swear words could be used in advertisements as well.

Another complainant stated that the word is derogatory (notwithstanding the different spelling) and that this term is directed at women, specifically.

A third complainant was concerned that the advertisement was flighted at times when children could overhear the wording and were likely to repeat the word.

In response, Budget Insurance said the use of the word “Beeetch” is as a verb, and not to be confused with the derogatory noun. It said the context in which the words are used is by no means of a derogatory or offensive nature.

It said the advert and the use of words “Don’t Beeetch, Sweeetch” are intended to be lighthearted and humorous in their depiction of the reality of expensive insurance in SA. It maintained the structure of the whole advertisement is comical and in no way seeks to offend anyone.

The ARB said the humorous pronunciation (and spelling) of the word dilutes its negative associations. In the same way that “fudge” or “sugar” are used as substitutes for extreme swear words, the use of “beeetch” in place of the swear word does take some of the strength out of the word.

For all these reasons, the directorate found that the advertisement does not broadly “offend against good taste and decency”, nor is it significantly “offensive to sectoral values and sensitivities”.

It also took into consideration that in the Budget Insurance advertisement, the gender of the people doing the “bitching” was fairly equally split between men and women, which goes some way to negating the gender association

One of the complainants raised the point that children might be exposed to such a word, and end up repeating it. The directorate believes that Budget Insurance's contention that because the advert was not targeted at children, certain clauses of the advertising code do therefore not apply, holds no water.

“The point remains that children might still be exposed to the content of the advertisement, and could be 'harmed mentally, morally, physically or emotionally', as stated in the code. The harm that the complainant in this matter foresees is children viewing the commercial and repeating the word 'beeetch', or the swear word, believing it to be an acceptable word, given that it is used in the commercial.”

Given this, the directorate said it believes that the commercial should not be flighted during programming that children may be watching unsupervised.

Budget Insurance has been requested to flight the commercial only during programming that is not likely to be viewed by children who are watching television unsupervised.

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