COVID-19 safety advert pulled off TV for promoting unsafe behaviour

An advertisement promoting use of the COVID Tracer app has been pulled off TV after a complaint it promoted unsafe beach behavior.

The advert, produced as part of the Government's $2.5 million 'Make Summer Unstoppable' campaign, features two friends making a trip to the beach. 

On the way there they scan in at the local dairy, wash their hands and leave behind a third friend, who is clearly sick. 

At the end of the commercial they shout "make raumati unstoppable," using the Maori word for 'summer', and run towards the water. One of them is strangely holding a ukelele, but it's the other friend's choice of toy that caught the eye of one viewer - a large inflatable slice of watermelon.

"All summer I have heard pleas on the radio from Surf Lifesaving to not take inflatable pool toys to the beach or lakes as they are not safe for use outside of a pool," a complainant told the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

"Many rescues apparently required as a result of this behaviour. Inappropriate for this to be in a COVID ad, especially where the focus of the message is about safety."

Surf Lifesaving has been urging Kiwis not to take inflatables to the beach.

"Inflatable pool toys aren't designed for the ocean; they're lightweight and difficult to propel, meaning they can quickly be blown out to sea by an off-shore breeze," Surf Lifesaving chief executive Paul Dalton said in January.

Kids are especially at risk - one minute they're having fun, the next they're being whisked out to sea by a strong wind. A three-year-old girl on an inflatable unicorn made headlines in 2020 after being rescued nearly a kilometre off the coast of Greece. 

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which runs the Unite Against COVID-19 campaign, pulled the ad immediately. 

"Given the advertiser's co-operative engagement with the process and the self-regulatory action taken in removing the advertisement, the chair said it would serve no further purpose to place the matter before the complaints board," the ASA said in a statement. 

The ad can still be viewed on the Unite Against COVID-19 Facebook page