Thursday 22 August 2019

'We never set out to offend anyone' – creator defends controversial radio ad after Joe Duffy brands it 'atrocious'

Radio star Joe Duffy. Photo: Tony Gavin
Radio star Joe Duffy. Photo: Tony Gavin
Joe Duffy in studio at RTE .Pix Ronan Lang/Feature File

Gabija Gataveckaite

THE maker behind a controversial radio advertisement criticised by presenter Joe Duffy has defended it, stating that good advertisements are divisive and successful in generating conversation.

Speaking on Joe Duffy’s Liveline show yesterday afternoon, creator Mark Tuthill defended the use of the controversial father-in-law imagery in the latest Choose Radio ad.

“We never set out to get a row or to offend anyone,” he said.

“It’s one of those things as well, any good work is divisive in a way and ultimately, subjective,” he added.

The advertisement caused a ruffle in the airwaves when Joe Duffy called for it to be pulled from Liveline on Tuesday. The short ad depicts an encounter that a man has when he meets his father-in-law in the gym changing rooms and his towel falls down and “you see everything, in all its sweaty glory”.

“Sticks in your head, doesn’t it? And they say radio isn’t visual. Don’t under-estimate the power of a radio ad. Choose Radio,” it adds.

According to a spokesperson, 11 emails and 5 calls from members of the public who were unhappy about the latest Choose Radio campaign were received by RTÉ. However, the broadcaster did not receive any formal complaints about this campaign.

Mr Duffy lashed out at the advert on Tuesday, calling it ‘distasteful’.

“There is nothing wrong with celebrating the human body in any form,” argued Mr Tuthill on yesterday’s show. “But I think the context of the relationship, the fact that it’s your father-in-law, adds that layer of tension and drama to the piece a little bit.”

The creator went on to explain that the agency had considered other ‘visual’ ideas, like squeezing a spot. 

“I think the ad is brilliant,” said Linda O’Laodain, who rang into the show.

“It’s got everybody talking if that ad was in a comedy show, or sitcom, we’d all be falling around laughing. Because you can picture the son-in-law's face when as he looks at the father-in-law. The copywriters should get an award.”

Another caller called it ‘sheer brilliance’.

“Advertisers want their ads to stand out and call on people to make their ad stand out,” said a caller named Rory.

“Mark has done a sheer brilliant job on the ad.”

“That ad has 20 minutes of conversation on prime time radio,” he added.

However, not all callers were fans of the controversial advert.

“It’s a very powerful verbal picture on radio and it comes across very clearly. It’s not to my taste and it is totally distasteful,” caller Maggie explained.

“It is the most offensive ad. It's dehumanising, it's demeaning, it's vulgar, it's coarse.”

According to a Choose Radio spokesperson, the campaign ends today.

"The aim of the campaign is to ensure that radio is included in media plans and to show agencies, brands and clients the power of the medium of radio that they can utilise in their advertising campaigns," the spokesperson said.

The Choose Radio initiative started in 2008 in a bid to encourage increase advertisers' annual investment in radio. 

The ad in question was made by the Choose Radio Committee and played over more than 30 different radio stations including RTÉ Radio.

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