The latest in a string of ads for ING Direct – featuring Aussie actress Isla Fisher – has attracted a wave of complaints claiming the ad encourages bullying of people with red hair.
The Advertising Standards Board dismissed the complaints against the ad, in which Isla Fisher is off-camera after being replaced by a ‘real’ ING customer – also a redhead. Fisher tries to prove her own authenticity by shouting, “Do you think this hair is intentional?!”
Complaints against the ad included:
- I find that reference to red hair and red heads in general very offensive. My wife and other members of my extended family have red hair and constantly live with negative comments about their hair colour. If the reference to hair colour was exchanged with words like “being a girl” or being a particular skin colour, there is no way this ad would be aired.
- I was offended by this ad because when Fisher was questioned about being a real customer to ING direct she say “do you think this hair is intentional?” this was offensive to me because I’m a red head and I know she was a blonde before so the colour was intentional.
- I have three sons who suffered abuse and bullying when they were young because of their red hair. I have noticed an increase in legitimising discrimination of red haired people, and I think this ad is offensive as it gives tacit approval to the notion that red haired people are somehow of lesser value than other hair colours.
The Board responded by saying, “The Board noted the advertiser’s response that Isla was a co-creator of the script and that she has always been proud of her natural, red hair.
“The Board noted that the overall tone of the advertisement is mocking of Isla wanting to be the centre of attention and considered that her comment about choosing her hair colour is intended to be taken in this humorous context and not as a suggestion that she would rather not have the red hair for which she is well-known.
“The Board noted that Isla does not make any negative comments about her hair colour and considered that the use of a ‘real’ customer who also has red hair is a positive depiction of this particular hair colour rather than a suggestion that it is negative or should be thought of as negative.
“The Board acknowledged the complainant’s concerns around the bullying of people with red hair but considered that in this instance the advertisement does not present red hair in a negative light or suggest that people with red hair should be thought less of.”