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mind matters.

Byline: tryst williams

I WISH to make a complaint. Five words to strike fear in the heart of even the toughest customer service rep. In this case, I want to complain about an old stereotype. The one that suggests that, as a nation, we're averse to complaining. Too timid to whinge.

Yeah, right.

A report by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) out this week should soon put paid to such an outmoded cliche. (Although anyone who's ever caught the merest glimpse of Airline, which only ever seems to consist of an army of Brit holidaymakers laying siege to a hapless Easyjet check-in desk worker, will already know better.) The ASA has published figures showing the most complained-about ads from the past year, revealing just how many thousands of people across the UK have nothing better to do with their time than have a good old moan.

Top of the heap came a truly terrifying ad showing people with fishing hooks yanking at their lips. People complained that such a graphic image could unduly scare children.

Umm.... don't you think this was kind of missing the point of the advert, given that it was part of a Government anti-smoking campaign?

Maybe the whingers who balked at this image would have preferred something that cast cigarettes in a better, less frightening, light. Obviously it wouldn't contain anything as controversial as a whiff of smoke. Or a fag.

Another that brought out the "Angry from Abergele" brigade was a charity ad promoting regular exercise. The poster had the temerity to show a side-on view of an elderly man's bare bottom. Maybe the affront for the complainers lay in the absence of a scantily-clad young filly, of the kind that would have tackily graced the ads of yesteryear.

By contrast, the naked Victor Meldrew-alike is redolent of a more "enlightened" era that would have any of the green-pencil brigade bleating about "political correctness gone mad".

Instead of such innocuous examples of slight nudity and the need for shock tactics to end the curse of smoking, the complainers' ire would be far better directed at some of the worse iniquities of today's advertising men and women.

As any parent will tell you, one of the most annoying facets of children's television is the maddening preponderance of ads aimed squarely at children. There's something undoubtedly immoral about young kids being so cynically targeted in this way.

Personally, I'd have preferred to see more complaints being made about the glut of greedy celebrities choking up our screens, queuing up to cash in on products they have little natural affinity with. And the very lowest of the low are those sporting superstars who wax so lyrically about their humbling roles as "ambassadors" or "role models" to the youth of today, and then try and sell those self-same youths the latest teeth-rotting, sugar-filled fizzy drink or obesity-inducing junk food.

But then I'm betting it usually takes a certain class of person to complain to the ASA - presumably not overweight kids lolling on their settees, glued to the latest crisp or pop ads on TV.

If some of the workplaces I've had the misfortune to be employed in during the dim and distant past are anything to go by, such complaints are probably penned by whingeing old harridans - of both sexes. The Mary Whitehouse incarnates who see nothing good in anyone, and who should be the ones with least call to complain. People who are the living embodiment of the saying that "emptiest vessels make the most noise".

Complaint over from this particular empty vessel. And should you have any complaints to make about the contents of this column, feel free to drop me a line. It'll at least give me something to whinge about.

"I want to complain about an old stereotype. The one that suggests that we're averse to complaining. Too timid to whinge. Yeah, right

tryst.williams@mediawales.co.uk
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 3, 2008
Words:653
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