Shonks and sensationalists

Andrew Funnell on today’s Radio National’s Media Report [transcript] examines the reaction to ABC-TV’s Gruen Transfer from the public and from within the industry. GT was a ratings hit, is being attributed as the source of new interest in advertising as a career from bright young things, and is also accused of doing more harm than good to the industry through the panel-members playing up to an existing image of advertisers as quipping show-ponies with a cynical streak.

The range of opinions about the show is interesting, and the controversy obviously plays into why the show has been renewed. To me the criticisms of the show as lightweight ring a very loud bell, as I was disappointed by the lack of substantive discussion regarding the manipulations of advertising – they keep on circling the issue and backing off.

Anyway, one line in the program caught my attention as especially well expressed:

Now I’ve always thought the advertising game is a bit like journalism, in that it’s full of both highly professional, intelligent people and, let’s face it, a fair share of shonks and sensationalists.

And in both occupations the former not surprisingly, hate being associated with the latter.

– and the “shonks and sensationalists” phrase came straight back to me when Hoydenizen El emailed me a link to this story about an alcohol ad that features semi-naked sunbathers and peeping toms. A twist is that this ad is essentially a viral campaign, where they ran a very short teaser on cable TV with a link to a website which is the only place that a longer version can be seen.

Now, in some ways this idea of having virals online and only paying for broadcast time for short teasers is very clever indeed, but does this technique mean that the already-toothless tiger of industry self-regulation can be bypassed, simply because the longer version with the breaching material is not being technically “broadcast”?

The Australian Drug Foundation and VicHealth will make complaints against the ad, claiming it trivialises the criminal act of stalking, objectifies women and links sex to alcohol – a breach of the industry’s own self-regulated advertising code.

Parliamentary Secretary for Health Senator Jan McLucas told The Age the ad was unacceptable. She hinted at regulatory change. “Generating cheap controversy with this type of ad is the kind of tactic some companies resort to in an attempt to get more for their advertising spend.”

It will be a rather spectacular own-goal if this money-saving campaign actually ends up prompting legislation that will give industry regulation some actual teeth to chastise breaches in the future.

NB: We’ll have some more material specifically about the ad campaign publishing soon.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, media

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1 reply


  1. Jim Beam demonstrates just how much men want to hate us at Hoyden About Town
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