Tuesday, May 13, 2014

RIDICULOUS ADVERTISING STANDARDS AUTHORITY

Leo Grobler

Dear Consumers,  
         The ASA has been set up by its media members to police advertising to protect you the South Africa public.
         Here’s how well it does it and how utterly ridiculous it is.
         Ridiculous website: Being years out of date it is a shocking advertisement for advertising and an indictment on the media organisations that fund it. Examples: The latest Annual Report is for 2007/8; Statistics are for 2009/2010; Ad-Alerts were last issued in 2010 and its most recent Precedent Manual which it was proud to announce has rulings made six years ago.
        
MSIBI - no joke
The ASA’s Chief Executive Officer Thembi Msibi was reported as saying; The website is undergoing changes and will be relaunched at a date yet to be confirmed.  That was another example of how ridiculous the ASA is because that was more than a year and half ago.
Ridiculous Preamble to its Code of Advertising Practice: This lists its very admirable requirements for advertising such as being legal, truthful, prepared with a sense of responsibility to the consumer and that it should not bring advertising into disrepute or reduce confidence in it. But the rider tells us that none of these requirements can be used as a basis for a complaint. So what they are there for is anybody’s guess.



Ridiculous ruling it can’t enforce: That’s the background to the ridiculous way my complaints were handled. A Tshwane University of Technology Professor Rudi de Lange complained about the claims made by a Dr Semba on his own website. De Lange believed the title “Dr” was used to make the ad more believable.
         Semba said he could cure epilepsy, high blood pressure and other ailments with his psychic powers and he undertook to solve the problem of miscarriages by warding off any spirit or demon that has been tormenting your productivity.
         According to the ASA website De Lange submitted, in essence that the advertiser does not hold substantiation as proof that his methods have the ability to cure the diseases mentioned. As such, the advertiser exploits consumer’s superstitions and beliefs.
         He quoted clauses of the ASA’s Code of Advertising Practice to back his complaint.
         The ASA decided that as it had not been able to get a response from Semba it had to go on what De Lange had submitted. Clause 4.1 required advertisers to hold substantiation for any claims made in their advertisements. But in this case the advertiser did not produce any proof of this in spite of being asked to do so.
         The Ridiculous ASA ruled that Dr Semba had to withdraw his ad with “immediate effect” even though it has no power to control these. Two months or more later the ad was still on the internet unchanged.
         Our enforcement abilities are somewhat limited at present, Leo Grobler the ASA’s Manager, Dispute Resolutions told me referring to online advertising.
As I understand it the ASA can only control advertising placed with its media members.
         As part of its ruling the Ridiculous ASA made this admission: The proliferation of charlatan healers in recent years is concerning, especially as they tend to use unregulated forms of media, such as internet advertisements on own websites, to promote their businesses base on unsubstantiated claims.
         The ASA has ruled against such advertisements on numerous occasions in recent years, and it is hoped that the appropriate authorities will address this issue, as it is no doubt causing harm to the credibility of legitimate healers and practitioners and this industry at large.
         THIS BOLD STATEMENT BECAME EVEN MORE RIDICULOUS WHEN YOU READ WHAT MY EXPEREINCE WAS.
         My post of 4 December 2013 headed THE CITIZEN'S ALADDIN’S CAVE OF UNBELIEVABLE ADVERTS (Dubious Ads)exposed the fact that this Johannesburg based, daily paper carried pages of smalls ads that made claims similar to the ones Dr Semba was making.
         Even the paper’s Editor Steven Motale agreed with me that they were not believable.
         So as the paper was still carrying them more than two months after my post appeared unchallenged I complained to the ASA about them.

         I submitted pages of these ads taken from the February 26 and March 4 2014 editions of The Citizen together with a report from The Times about the De Lange ruling. I pointed out that the ads were clearly unbelievable and that many of them involved people calling themselves “Dr” or giving themselves other titles which were also clearly not true. I pointed out that the paper’s Editor had agreed the ads were not believable.
         Grobler replied saying that I had to submit a separate complaint for each ad and each advertiser would then be asked to comment before the ASA made a ruling.
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         As a test I started with six individual ones and I also said there could be as many as 50. But I didn’t get very far.                                                
         The first one concerned Baba Meseko’s unbelievable promises to enable you to get rich easily; have a lucky wallet to get R10 000 everyday; bring back lost lover etc, all 100% Guaranteed.
         The reasons I gave for my complaints were that the promises of easy money were obviously not true and nor was the guarantee to bring back lost lover.
I also submitted that the ad did not comply with various Clauses of the ASA’s Code of Conduct and I gave four examples.
One of them was that according to Clause 4.2.1 headed Misleading Claims an ad should not contain anything that is likely to mislead the consumer.
Another one that I quoted was 4.1 headed Substantiation. This stipulates that before advertising is published all advertisers must have documentary evidence to support all claims that are capable of objective substantiation. 
This was exactly the same one De Lange used as part of his complaint.
Having told me that the ASA is required to act as a neutral and independent arbiter and that complainants were not required to prove their case but were expected to clearly make their case, Grobler kicked this one of mine into touch as well as all my other ones, which were very similar.                        
You are telling us how you perceived the ad, but you have not yet articulated on what basis you believe that the advertiser has contravened the provisions of the Code, he told me.
This sounded like an echo of a reply I got some time ago from Puseletso Mahlangu, a Consultant in his department, when I had complained about get-rich-quick ads in the Sunday Times. She told me: The letters of complaint clearly identify the aspects of the advertising you find objectionable, however you offer no grounds of complaint as far as the advertising is concerned.
YOU HAVE TO GO SOME TO GET MORE RIDICULOUS THAN THAT.
And the fact that Grobler refused to consider my complaints any further on the grounds that they were not properly motivated was even more ridiculous if one looks at the ASA’s Ad-Alert list on its website. This is sent to all aspects of the media to ensure that those with an adverse ruling, who have not responded, can not advertise again. Significantly nearly half those on the list of 19 were traditional healers with names not unlike those in the ads I complained about. Here are some of them Dr M.K Bumba, Prof John & Mama Mai, Dr Phamy Rehema, Prof Wakho and so on.
Could it be that the neutral and independent arbiter standard set by the ASA got affected by previous posts on my blog that were highly critical of the ASA.



Or was it that a complaint from a university professor carried more weight than any of mine?
My post about the get-rich-quick ads in the Sunday Times was headed Advertising Standards Authority’s bungling, bunglers.



         In that case my three complaints were accepted but they then apparently got lost due to changes of staff, misfiling and goodness knows what else. With the result that nearly a year and half later Grobler apologised saying that because of the delays they were unable to finish what they started.
         Like all good police forces the ASA police don’t get off their butts until there is a complaint and as none of mine have been accepted it can justify turning a blind eye to what is going on at The Citizen. So it looks as though the paper, that claims to tell the truth and nothing but the truth in its editorial side, can go on making money punting these fairy tales in its ads to its gullible readers.
         THAT DEAR CONSUMERS IS HOW THE ASA PROTECTS YOU FROM UNCRUPULOUS ADVERTISERS. AND THAT’S HOW REALLY ‘CONCERNED’ THE ASA IS ABOUT THE ‘PROLIFERATION OF CHARLATAN HEALERS.’
         TO ME THE ASA LOOKS LIKE A NEWSPAPER PROTECTION SOCIETY THAT IS NOT UNBIASED AT ALL BECAUSE ALL THOSE ADS IN THE CITIZEN ARE EARNING IT A LOT OF MONEY.
         Oh I nearly forgot. Grobler told me that the ASA’s jurisdiction did not empower it to prevent newspapers from accepting ads of this kind. That shows once again how ridiculous it is. He suggested I contact the Print & Digital Media SA (PDMSA) which has some say over the business practices of publications.
         So this is what I did. Is the PDMSA just as ridiculous as the ASA? You’ll have to read my next post for the answer to that.
         Regards,
         Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman

P.S. Before I published this I sent it to Grobler. I invited him to make factual corrections and to comment if he wished. I got no reply.



Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?'on Amazon Kindle  It's a thriller with an underlying love story. 



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

VOTE DA - IF YOU WANT A BRIGHT EFFICIENT FUTURE


Dear South African 
Voters,
        This is why my wife Gayle and I will be voting for the Democratic Alliance in the election.
        Until six years ago we were living in the African National Congress run Johannesburg, the industrial heart of our country. The inefficiency there was mind boggling. There was a pot hole of examples bigger than Table Mountain that would take a book to list them all.
SO MAKE SURE YOU VOTE DA
        Our parting inefficiency gift from Joburg was this. When you sell a house there you have to pay your property rates six months in advance before transfer can go through. Then if this happens after say a month you are entitled to get five months back. It took us almost a year of unanswered emails and fruitless phone calls before we got what was due to us.
        And that was only because we contacted a DA councillor in Joburg who intervened.
        Of course if we had emigrated to say Australia somebody at the Council might well have pocketed our money.

        In the DA controlled Cape Town where we now live you can easily contact heads of departments who actually answer the phone and who deal with your problem promptly.
        As an example of the Council’s spot on efficiency we had a water leak on the pavement outside our house on a Sunday. It was fixed a mere three hours after I reported it.
        Had it happened in Joburg the waste of water would have gone on for days if not weeks.
        So if you want an efficient administration not only for the place where you live but for the entire country the only answer is to VOTE 
        Regards,
        Jon and Gayle  
P.S. If you don't listen to me you must definitely listen to my wife. If anybody knows what's good for you she does. Ask DA leader Helen Zille. 

Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?' on Amazon.com  It's a thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice.