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‘Racist’ Aldi whisky ad complaint rejected

The Advertising Standards Board has thrown out a complaint that an Australian radio advert for Aldi’s whisky brand was “racist” towards Scottish people by implying they “cannot be understood”.

Highland-Earl-Scotch-Whisky
The Advertising Standards Board rejected the complaint against an advert for Aldi’s Highland Earl Scotch Whisky

The advert opens with the sound of bagpipes playing, before a man with a strong Scottish accent introduces himself as the head distiller of Aldi’s Highland Earl Scotch Whisky.

A woman with an English accent then talks over him and translates his words, despite the Scotsman’s protestations that he is speaking English.

The advert was investigated by the Australian Advertising Standards Board after an expat Scot made a complaint.

“This advert is racist towards Scottish people, as a scotsman I am offended by the racist implications that I do not speak clearly and cannot be understood. Advertisements like this perpetuate the stereotype that as a nation we cannot be understood,” said the complainant.
“This should be taken in the context of would it be acceptable to put an interpreter on an advert for an aboriginal product? No! There would be uproar. Why is it acceptable to be racist towards the Scottish?”

Aldi responded to the complaint by saying the ad is part of a series of advertisements that “seek to highlight the provenance of Aldi’s liquor range though the highly distinctive accents of the producing region”, such as France for its Monsigny Champagnen and New Zealand for its Fraser Briggs Premium Lager.

“In each instance, the campaign intends to be light-hearted and humorous, while also demonstrating the products authenticity,” said Aldi.

“While we have highlighted the varied accents of English speaking people from different countries, we have not been unjust or prejudicial in doing so, as a) differing accents are a fact given the broad geographical locations of English speaking people; and b) we have not stated nor implied that one is more correct than the other.

“Instead, we simply translated an accent from one region for a different accented audience in another region. As a consequence, we have not ‘discriminated against’, especially when considering the light-hearted and humorous tone. Nor have we been ‘abusive’ or  ‘disparaging’, so have not vilified anyone of Scottish nationality or descent.”

The Board sided with Aldi and dismissed the complaint, stating that in this instance the advertisement is “playing on a common scenario” whereby a strong accent can be difficult for some people to understand even when the same language is being spoken.

The written ruling read: “By using a translator the suggestion is that the man’s Scottish accent is unlikely to be understood by the average listener and considered that as the man’s Scottish accent is easy to understand the translation adds a humorous tone to the advertisement.

“The Board noted that the advertisement presents a stereotype of a Scotsman with a strong accent but considered that the overall depiction is not negative: the translator is presented as silly, not the Scotsman, because she is unnecessarily translating.”

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