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ASB rules against Subaru Outback ad for misuse of word ‘corroboree’

A TV ad for the Subaru Outback has fallen foul of the ad watchdog for the misuse of the word ‘corroboree’, arguing it was offensive and demeaning to Aboriginal people.

A complaint against the ad argued it was offensive and “defames” Aboriginal people and culture.

The above ad is from the same campaign, however does not include the line “at this price it’s highway Corroborree”.

“I have seen it on multiple stations and it twists my gut each time. The final line of the ad was “at this price it’s highway Corroborree.” As an Aboriginal person this is highly offensive to suggest that a sacred meeting celebrating culture can be linked to the price of an inanimate object. It defames aboriginal people and culture by using the word Corroboree which is a sacred aboriginal ceremony in place of outback robbery.”

Subaru defended the ad, created by creative agency Disciple, arguing the use of the word “corroboree” to replace the word robbery” was a “deliberate pun with respect to the well known phrase ‘highway robbery'”.

“It is important to note that, in the phrase “highway robbery”, the word “robbery” is not intended to have its literal meaning (alluding to the criminal act of robbery), but rather is used to denote when something is very expensive. As such there is obviously no intention to associate the word “corroboree” with the literal criminal act of “robbery” (as suggested by one of the complainants), and Subaru Australia submits that this would be abundantly obvious to an average viewer of the advertisement,” the car company argued.

In its ruling, the Ad Standards Board (ASB) noted the Macquarie Dictionary definition for corroborree is “An Aboriginal assembly of sacred, festive or warlike character”.

It was the board’s view the phrase ‘highway robbery’ would not “normally be phrased in rhyming slang as ‘highway corroborroee’, with the board considering the “casual use of a word with such important social and cultural meaning would be likely to be found offensive by Aboriginal people”. The complaint was upheld.

The ad stopped stopped airing on February 26 and appears to have been taken down from online.

Miranda Ward

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