J. Morrow re. MGA – Elvis, The King (1992) (N.Z.) [TV Commercial]

New Zealand Advertising Standards Agency, [1992] NZASA 134

This is a decision of the New Zealand Advertising Standards Complaints Board regarding a TV commercial for MGA television sets. The complainant, J. Morrow, believed the advertisement was demeaning to the character of Elvis. The Board disagreed.

Interestingly, the decision states that J. Morrow’s “. . . only concern obvious from [his] letter was Elvis being portrayed watching a wall of televisions at one time” and that was “not a true representation of Elvis’ actual television watching behaviour,”

Huh? Guess he’s never seen a picture of Elvis’ TVs!




Meeting 19 October 1992

Complaint 92/134

Complainant: J Morrow
Advertisement: MGA – Elvis, The King

Complaint: An advertisement for MGA television sets on Channel 2 and TV3 depicted a person imitating Elvis Presley watching a bank of television sets. The voice-over said, “Now in New Zealand you can watch like the King”.

The Complainant said “These adverts are demeaning, and at the very least insulting to the King. I will now give some facts about Elvis that will show that Elvis was a normal human being while he was alive despite the worldwide fame and very great fortune that he earned”. He then detailed various attributes of Elvis Presley and his charitable deeds.

The relevant provision is Rule 1 of the Code for People in Advertising which states:

“Advertising should not portray individuals or groups within society in a manner which is likely to expose them to violence, exploitation, hatred, contempt, abuse, denigration or ridicule from other members of the community.”

The advertiser said, “Having read the above complaint regarding our 15” commercial for MGA televisions, and the appropriate principles and codes for people in advertising, we fail to see that our commercial could in any way be construed to be “demeaning” to the image of the late Elvis Presley.

Prior to this commercial being aired in March/April of this year, approval was received from the TVCAB (copy enclosed). The music bed was altered for the second flight of advertising and was then deemed by the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society as not requiring a licence (copy of this letter also enclosed). This appears to be around the time that the complainant viewed the commercial.

The images of Elvis portrayed in the commercial were in no way intended to insult “The King” as suggested by your complainant. Indeed, specific attention was paid to the way the “Elvis” lookalike appeared; slim, attractive and successful.

The only concern obvious from the complainant’s letter was Elvis being portrayed watching a wall of televisions at one time. The complainant goes on to explain that is not a true representation of Elvis’ actual television watching behaviour, and a lengthy explanation of the loneliness he experienced and his charitable nature. The six codes of advertising provided do not appear to have been broken by this image which we feel portrayed the stars behaviour in a lighthearted manner (as allowable in code six).

That we chose to use the image of Elvis Presley to promote our range of MGA televisions reflects the high regard we hold “The King” in. It would not make commercial sense to use a image to try to promote and sell product.

Rule 6 for the Code for People in Advertising states:

“Humour and satire are natural and accepted features of the relationship between individuals and groups within the community. Humorous and satirical treatment of people and groups of people is equally natural and acceptable in advertising, provided the portrayal does not encourage intolerance, prejudice and bigotry.”

TV3 said, “As you are probably aware by now, the TVCAB replies on behalf of both the television broadcasters to your requests for comments on complaints, unless it is an unusual case and further comment is needed from each broadcaster. In this particular instance I feel moved to put pen to paper myself as I believe the complaint is ridiculous and an incredible waste of everybody’s time and effort, and one of those that should rely on your judgement and not go through the system.

It is very clear that Mr Morrow is an Elvis fan and the detail of his knowledge is commendable. However, we are not an organisation that is able to be, nor should we be, focused on one-off individual idiosyncrasies”

The Television Commercial Approvals Bureau on behalf of the media said, “. . . it would take an enormous stretch of the imagination to believe that the use of Elvis Presley lookalikes . . . offended against the generally accepted standards of public taste.

Therefore I suggest that complaints of this nature should not be allowed to waste the time of advertisers, agencies, broadcasters or indeed of the Complaints Board, but should be dealt with an alternative administrative process.”

The Board accepted that the advertisement was imitative of Elvis Presley. The Board ruled that being imitative or using a lookalike did not itself breach any codes. Imitation is said to be a form of flattery particularly when it is of a famous person. Rule 1 says that individuals should not be portrayed in a manner which exposes that person to abuse, denigration or ridicule from other members of the community. The Board were of the opinion that the advertisement did not abuse, denigrate or ridicule Elvis Presley, nor did it breach any other aspects of the Rule. The Board therefore ruled that Rule 1 had not been breached.

The Board were concerned at the comments that the complaint was a waste of peoples’ time, that it should not go through the system and that it should be dealt with by an alternative administrative process. The Board wished to emphasise that it was a proper complaint to be dealt with the Board. The Complainant was serious with his complaint and therefore should be treated with respect by all parties. The Board wanted to make it clear that the comments were not appropriate and did not assist the self-regulatory process.

Decision: Complaint Not Upheld

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