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‘Superhero’ Builders Academy ad falls foul of ASB over unsafe work practices

A TV ad for Simonds Homes’ Builders Academy has fallen foul of the ad watchdog for depicting unsafe work practices such as using a nail gun as though it were an actual gun, despite the company claiming the protagonist was representing a “superhero”

Complaints against the ad, which introduced Bob, a builder who can do anything because he trained at the Builders Academy, argued the actions in the ad were unsafe and glamourised unsafe workplace behaviour.

One complainant wrote: “All of the actions depicted in the advertising are seriously dangerous. Anyone on a building site who did even one of these things would be immediately excluded from site for their own and everyone else’s safety.

“I believe this advertising should be immediately withdrawn as it depicts and glamourises unsafe workplace behaviour.”

Simonds Homes defended the spot, arguing the ad did not depict a normal workplace, suggesting it is a fantasy where the Bob character is a superhero.

“We are not depicting a normal workplace. It is a fantasy; our character is a superhero and the environment is a fictitious space constructed for the purpose of the ad. The comparison is Batman and Gotham City – a fantasy built on aspects of reality. The final scene, with Bob standing on a pedestal, confirms the surreal environment,” it said.

They continued: “The actions depicted are not dangerous to our character – because he is obviously not real. He is a superhero, and can therefore do things normal people can’t, such as defy gravity and shoot nails into beams of wood over distance despite the fact that nail guns cannot be used in that manner because they are built with safety features that prevent it.”

However they did concede that the depiction of nail guns being fired over distance was a scene of concern, alerting the Ad Standards Board to the ad being re-edited to present a more realistic version of how the tools should be used.

While the board noted Simonds Homes’ argument that the character was a superhero type character, “his actions involve the use of tools and equipment that is indicative of the tools required in the building industry” and as the product advertised is a training facility for the building industry “the realistic nature of what the man is doing is much greater and therefore more likely to be copied”.

The board agreed that “likely audience for the building academy is young adults (more commonly males) and that young males can be impressionable” and as it is a training facility being advertised, it was the board’s view that the advertiser should take care in the portrayal of workplace behaviour.

The complaint was upheld.

Miranda Ward

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