Wrigley's Extra chewed up over bullying advert

 Wrigley's Extra ad
The ad, for Wrigley's Extra, showed a glasses-wearing boy pushed up against a wall and told to hand over his lunch money. Photo credit: Wrigley's Extra

A chewing gum advert has been pulled from TV because it showed a boy being bullied.

The ad, for Wrigley's Extra, showed a glasses-wearing boy pushed up against a wall and told to hand over his lunch money. He pops a wad of gum, and ignores the bully's demand - instead complimenting a girl walking past. 

The complainant, M Glover, told the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) bullying is a serious problem in New Zealand.

"I was concerned enough to email the particular company whose ad it was, outlining my thoughts - I received an email back, which to my mind missed the point completely."

Mars Wrigley, the gum's manufacturer, told the ASA the ad "could not reasonably be considered to portray, condone or normalise violence or bullying".

"The boy who has been pushed against the wall clearly appears unintimidated and non-fussed. He shows no signs of being upset; on the contrary. He is physically larger than the other boy," the company said in its statement, adding that he doesn't give in to the bully's demands.

"The role of the product is not suggesting it helps with bullying, rather it gave [him] the confidence to talk to, and compliment Sarah on her hair. This is reinforced by product reveal and then consumption moment being clearly demonstrated just before he compliments Sarah."

The Commercial Approvals Bureau, which checks every advert before it goes on air, backed the advertiser.

"The encouragement of bullying would require a situation where the behaviour was rewarded or portrayed as desirable or cool to viewers above child age. That isn't happening in this Wrigley commercial."

A minority of the board agreed, saying the advert was a parody of bullying. But the majority of the ASA board disagreed. 

"The lack of reaction from the boy subjected to the bullying behaviour could be because it was a regular occurrence," it said. "The board said the execution of the advertisement was problematic because there was no resolution shown to the bullying scenario and the advertisement concludes with the bully still grasping the jersey of the student he had bailed up."

The complaint was upheld, and the advert ordered off air. 

Wrigley's Extra has had a number of adverts deemed inappropriate in the UK, including one that featured a woman chewing gum while playing football, and another which featured a young half-naked couple kissing on a bed, which aired during a TV show about Lego.