‘Kill Bills’ billboard for Powershop featuring a plug socket banned for being derogatory towards Asians

A billboard for Powershop’s featuring a plug socket with a Samurai sword and Japanese-style bandana has been banned for being derogatory towards Asians.

The billboard, which featured the phrase ‘Kill Bills’ – a play on the film title Kill Bill – drew ire from one complainant who wrote to the Ad Standards Board saying “likening a power socket to an Asian face is derogatory”.


Powershop defended the ad, explaining it is a “challenger brand looking to attract apathetic customers from their crusty old electric company”.

It said the current campaign aims to encourage customers to “switch to Powershop with the use of fun and engaging ads referencing heroic pop culture characters”.

Powershop told the ASB it has been using electricity plug sockets “as the faces of characters in our campaigns” for the past 24 months, and is something the brand is known for. Indeed, Powershop was forced to withdraw an outdoor campaign in November last year, which compares its competitors to Star Wars’ evil tyrant Darth Vader, using a powerpoint to depict the villain, after a complaint from Lucasfilm.

“The powerpoint plug socket used in the ‘Kill Bills’ advertisement draws general inspiration  from several martial arts movie characters but is in no way intended to, nor does it, reference
a Japanese face nor a specific nationality, background or ethnicity,” they said.

However, while the board noted Powershop’s defence, it was the board’s view that it is not “uncommon for the term ‘powerpoint’ to be used as an offensive and derogatory term to describe a person of Asian descent” and as the power socket in the ad “is accessorised” to strongly suggest “a link between an Asian face and a powerpoint configuration”, the ASB ruled the ad was discriminatory.

Powershop has said it is “disappointed” by the ruling and “does not agree with it” however will remove it from public viewing.

Miranda Ward


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