Monday, 12 June 2006

Don't give it to me

O Sole Mio is a nice old song if you like that sort of thing, and it is a great pity that a generation has grown up all over the world which associates it not with ardent Neapolitans but with a sweet fatty gunk called Cornetto. This irritated me enough to make me complain about it twenty years ago, with possibly some small result, and again last month, with none.
The other day I wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority suggesting that a phrase in the recently re-cycled jingle was misleading. Their reply assured me that “the ASA is extremely careful to monitor any broadcast advertising that may be misleading”.
However, they also explained that a manufacturer who misleads the public is not breaching their code: for the ASA to act there must be “serious viewer detriment” and lots of complaints about it. They went on: “…we could not justify any further [further?] intervention but we will continue to monitor any future audience response… sorry if you are disappointed… thank you for raising this matter…”
I replied:
Thank you for your reply of 25th May.
When Walls first started to use a version of this commercial, some twenty years ago, the jingle went “….Delicious ice cream from Italy.” I had some correspondence about this at the time but I do not know whether or not it that was that which caused Walls to change it to “…of Italy”.
I do not think this is much less misleading than their first try. I mentioned in my letter to you the possibility that, in response to your query, Walls might say that it just means “Italian style”, only in order to pre-empt any attempt on their part to justify their words in this way, not to suggest that if that was what they mean then their claim is honest.
I guess that few consumers, or even the manufacturers, have any idea what “Italian style” means. The authoritative website Made in Italy Online says
“What is the art of Italian-style ice cream and what are the ingredients? …it can have either a fruit or a custard base…For ice cream with a custard base, it is the custard that is common to all the varieties, and the different flavors are added to it: chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, etc. To make the custard only fresh eggs and fresh skimmed milk should be used…”.
If Walls were to claim that “of Italy” means “Italian-style” then, when the product is manufactured outside Italy with ingredients very different from what is described above, the claim is clearly false, and the words of the jingle are clearly misleading, though suggestio falsi rather than a downright lie. However, I note that you appear to believe that this is of no concern to the ASA unless there is “serious viewer detriment”. This is disappointing.
I note that you do not intend to raise the matter with the manufacturers, though you will “monitor any future audience response”. I can well appreciate that you are not keen to tangle with Unilever, the multinational which owns Walls, and you are unlikely to receive any substantial volume of complaints because very few people realise what Walls are claiming, so I must accept that as far as the ASA is concerned the matter is closed. So it must be for me, though I shall be publishing our correspondence on the internet and elsewhere. Yours, etc.

So that's that.


Minerva said...'ve hit a bit of a brick Walls then...

Tony said...

Welcome back, O Queen of the Rotten Puns.