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Home Rulings REDEFINE PROPERTIES / J FOSTER / 2018-7858F


Mrs Foster lodged a consumer complaint against the Respondent’s television commercial promoting its services.

The commercial depicts what appears to be a group therapy for abused tenants, voicing their displeasure with the abusive treatment they received from the landlords. It shows people, one by one, discussing the bad treatment and neglect suffered at the hands of their landlords. 

The on-screen display at the end of the commercial states:

"Before tenant therapy becomes your reality enter a partnership with the property professionals. Redefine Properties. We’re not landlords. We’re people.”


The Complainant submitted that the commercial is insensitive and in poor state. People who are actually struggling with an addiction of any kind could be offended as it demeans their real struggles.


In light of the complaint Clause 1 of Section II of the Code (Offensive advertising) was considered relevant.  


The Respondent submitted that, whilst a mature brand with a well-established reputation, it has always presented itself in the media space as innovative, slightly irreverent, and above all, willing to poke fun at and engage with the stereotypical persona of the "bad landlord”.

It submitted that its marketing collateral to date has positioned landlords as villainous figures who are unresponsive and indifferent to their tenants’ needs and concerns. When approaching the current commercial, it consulted widely, and the concept was tested from a pre- to post –production with various focus groups, all of whom responded positively to the humour.

The Respondent submitted that its every action is based on building sound, trustworthy, intuitive and responsive relationships with all stakeholders. It argued that the therapeutic space is a safe space, par excellence, where people can vent their grievances, woes and struggles, and find support, comfort and direction. Group and community-based therapy sessions provide a safe haven for a wide variety of people, with an equally wide variety of issues, not all of which are based in addictive behaviours or mental health disorders. In the case of its latest commercial, it is quite explicit that this group of abused tenants (and not recovering addicts, for example) who have got together to support each other.

The Respondent submitted further that with greater social awareness and understanding, mental health disorders and addictive behaviours have now rightfully been centred in mainstream clinical practice, and afforded the support and research so badly needed. Its commercial, rather than seeking to diminish the sufferer’s experience or reinforcing the idea of therapy as something hidden behind close door, in fact, strives to do the opposite. The humour is a measure of the extent to which therapeutic practice has become widely accepted and embraced by mainstream society.


The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.

The Respondent submitted that it consulted with the ACA Advisory service in the making of this commercial.

At the outset, it should be noted that the ACA Advisory Service provides pre-approval and general copy advice, but is not regarded as a technical expert in any specific industry or field of expertise. It should also be emphasised that the ASA is obligated to apply its mind to the advertising in dispute and determine whether or not the Code has been contravened as is therefore not bound by the opinion of the ACA. 

The Directorate has an obligation to consider the merits in order to determine whether the commercial was in breach of the ASA Code of Advertising Practice.

Clause 1 of Section II states, inter alia, that advertising may not offend against good taste or decency or be offensive to public or sectoral values and sensitivities. It emphasises that when considering whether an advertisement is offensive, consideration needs to be given, inter alia, to the context, medium, likely audience, the nature of the product or service, prevailing standards, degree of social concern and public interest.

It also stipulates that advertisers should not cause serious, widespread or sectoral offence, but explains that the mere fact that a particular execution might be perceived as offensive to some does not automatically warrant the removal of such an execution.

The Directorate recognises that addiction and the support given in group therapy situations to addicts is an important and sensitive issue. However, it is also a well-recognised scenario, and, as the Respondent submits, not restricted to addiction.

In FNB "Steve Campaign” / W Hartley & Others / 2014-1595F (16 March 2015) the Directorate recognised that for those members of the public who are named Steve or who have friends and family members who are named Steve, the advertisements may appear insensitive. The Directorate has, however, always held that it cannot take into account sensitivities borne of particular life experiences and must consider the matter objectively. 

The Advertising Standard Committee (the ASC), in its ruling on the matter Vodacom / Ms K Brooks & Ms K Holmes / 3682, 3691 (5 July 2001), considered a commercial involving a man who became suicidal as the result of business and other SMS’s that he receives. While the ruling cautioned that sensitivities surrounding suicide should be carefully considered in preparing advertising, the Committee found that the commercial constituted parody and did not make literal claims. As such, the commercial was found to be acceptable.

The same approach applies in this matter. While it is true that the commercial may appear insensitive to some viewers, and while it is true that addiction and therapy is a sensitive issue that should be handled as such, like the Vodacom matter, this commercial constitutes parody and does not make literal claims.

Viewing the commercial from an objective perspective, the Directorate agrees that it is an exaggerated and humorous depiction of how tenants are being abused and neglected by the landlords.

The message is further emphasised by the on-screen display "Before tenant therapy becomes your reality enter a partnership with the property professionals.…”. The reasonable person would, in the context of the commercial as a whole, understand the intended message, and appreciate the fact that this is an exaggerated scenario, meant to be humorous, rather than to offend people undergoing therapy sessions.

Accordingly, the commercial is not found to contravene Clause 1 of Section II.

The complaint is dismissed.

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