Defend Truth


When nitpicking consumers get a lemon from the Advertising Regulatory Board


Jeremy Maggs is a veteran journalist, television and radio presenter, and MD of communications firm, Bold. He is the author of ‘WIN!’ and ‘My Final Answer’.

From complaints about the lemoniness of dishwashing liquid to the purity of oils, the Advertising Regulatory Board has its work cut out – and then along comes a dog-licking Covid conundrum.

My late mother was right. Some people have far too much time on their hands. I am one of them. I derive endless hours of amusement looking at decisions made by the Advertising Regulatory Board, which has the unenviable task of dealing with crotchety people who have a beef with ad-land. Mr Frikkie van Wyk is one such person who needs to get an outdoor hobby or a Netflix subscription.

In what I can only imagine was a fit of supermarket aisle sensory overload he took umbrage at Shoprite Checkers, which stocks a product called Olive Joy – a seed and olive oil blend.

“Sacré bleu!” I hear Georges Auguste Escoffier cry from heaven’s celestial kitchen, “a blend, not 100% pure virgin!”

But I digress. That is not what Van Wyk is dancing on a hot plate about. He is upset that the product contains only 10% olive oil and yet has the audacity to use the word ‘olive’ in its name. Shoprite countered by saying the packaging is in compliance with the relevant legislation and is also in line with what the market leader, Clover Olive Pride, does on its packaging.

Talk about throwing your rival under the bus.

Then in a reasonable, albeit wordy, decision, the board says: “The front of the packaging depicts two women amongst what looks like olive trees. This suggests that the product is olive oil. In addition, the name Olive Joy clearly evokes the idea that the product is an olive oil product. However, the product description, which is in a reasonable-sized and legible font, states quite clearly that the product is a seed oils and olive oil blend.”

It admits the label does, however, “skirt the edge of what is acceptable” when it comes to labelling, but gives Van Wyk a snotklap and a lesson in home economics by saying: “The price point of the product is another indicator that this is not a pure olive oil product. This product retails at R62/litre, the sunflower oils retail at around R31 for a litre and olive oils are all in excess of R100/litre. The hypothetical reasonable consumer would not, in this context, expect a R62 product to be a pure olive oil.”

And finally kicking Van Wyk to the curb, the board says the directorate “therefore finds that the packaging is not in breach of Clause 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code”.

I am far too angry with Van Wyk to look this up and hope he finds his next salad unpalatable and distasteful. Cheapskate. But while our time-rich consumer hero might be on the mat, he is not down and quickly gloves up against Unilever and Sunlight dishwashing liquid, which he says claims to contain as much as 100% real lemon juice, but the ingredient list does not include lemons, which contradicts the claim.

With a written sigh, Unilever defends its position, saying it is not legally obligated to list all the ingredients on its product packaging, as these formulas are typically proprietary and confidential. However, the product does, in fact, contain real lemon juice. And again, Van Wyk is shown the door and presumably in future will lick his dishes clean.

Or he can get together with a yapping Anjse du Plessis, who took Dotsure Pet Insurance to task for a television commercial that saw a dog licking its owner in what I imagine was a gesture of canine gratitude now that it has comprehensive cover. A nasty dose of biliary is always just a walkie away.

She went straight for the jugular, claiming: “Such an action was unacceptable when there exists the possibility of the transfer of diseases and sickness, and even death, as the result of receiving a lick to the face by a dog.” Then, with Trumpian logic, she says this was taking place when there is an “awareness of Covid”.

It is not clear, says the board, if the complainant was specifically concerned with the transfer of Covid-19 by the licking dog or was simply stating that a greater awareness of hygienic practices is required during a pandemic. I, of course, immediately go down the rabbit hole and ask a search engine: “Can a dog lick give you Covid?” This comes back: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stress that there is currently no evidence that pets can spread the coronavirus to people.”

With what I imagine is another deep sigh, the board then says: “It is considered inadvisable for young babies to be licked by dogs, as their immune systems are not yet mature or robust. The same applies to immunocompromised adults. However, neither of these scenarios is depicted in the commercial.”

I am glad the advertising industry is self-regulated. But working there must be exhausting. And my time spent reading at and reflecting was a good hour or more in which I could have made and dressed a salad, taken my uninsured sheepdog for a walk and loaded the dishwasher. DM


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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • John Strydom says:

    Thank you for the article, and the link. I look forward to some hours of fun on that website – and maybe I’ll find something to add next time I go to the supermarket 😉

  • Vittoria Jooste says:

    I would like to comment on the olive oil part of the article.
    We need more consumers like Mr Frikkie van Wyk who are prepared to question and challenge, to remind whoever is ‘skirting the edge of what is acceptable’ that they are being watched.

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