Complaint over Teazers’ ‘bipolar’ ad dismissed

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The Advertising Standards Authority of SA has dismissed a complaint against a Teazers advertisement allegedly mocking people with bipolar disorder, the authority said on Thursday.

“There is nothing in the advertisement that unduly imposes any burden or obligation on those affected by bipolar disorder in general, nor is there anything that withholds any benefit or service from them,” the ASA said in a statement.

“It cannot be said that the advertisement is in contravention of Clause 3.4 of Section II for the reasons advanced in the complaint.”

A psychiatrist had complained about a billboard on Rivonia Road in Sandton, Johannesburg, advertising the strip club.

It depicts two women in leopard print lingerie posing around a pole.

In large white letters it has the word “BIPOLER”, and the Teazers slogan “The Teaze Without The Sleaze”.

The complainant submitted the billboard reinforced the seediness and undesirability of mental illness and perpetuated the stigma of psychiatric illness.

The ASA said the complainant added that the advertisement made a mockery of a serious medical condition.

“Patients with bipolar disorder are discriminated [against] in the media, employment opportunities and insurance applications, and this advertisement makes a mockery of a serious situation,” the ASA said, citing the complaint.

Teazers submitted that there was no intention to offend professionals or patients who suffered from bipolar disorder.

The ASA directorate said it recognised that for psychiatrists, those with bipolar disorder, or who had friends and family with the disorder, the advertisement may appear insensitive.

“The directorate cannot, however, be persuaded by sensitivities borne of particular life experiences and must consider the matter objectively,” read the ruling.

The ASA gave an example of a ruling handed down in 2001 in a complaint against Vodacom. The complaint concerned a commercial involving a man who becomes suicidal as the result of business and other smses he receives.

While the ruling cautioned that sensitivities about suicide should be carefully considered in preparing advertising, the commercial constituted parody and did not make literal claims. As such, it was acceptable.

The Teazers billboard did not comment on, ridicule, or depict what one would expect to see from a person affected by bipolar disorder.

“Nothing is shown or claimed that would likely result in those affected by this disorder being mocked or discriminated against. The word ‘bipoler’ (which in itself is an anomaly, given the strange spelling) is clearly a pun relying on the word ‘bipolar’ and a common stripper’s pole.”

As such, the directorate was satisfied that the mere use of the word “bipoler” in the advertisement was not likely to cause offence.

The directorate said it recognised the complainants’ concerns and sensitivities.

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