Questionable advertising published by the Dominion Post

by Herbertimo on April 12, 2013

Yesterday, 11th of April, Wellington’s Dominion Post – and the NZ Herald – published an advertisement that ruffled my feathers. Now this was not a ruffle like the tussling of a child’s hair or that of an ornamental lace about one’s wrists, but more of a scuffle of disbelief, anger and confusion – not too dissimilar to how I feel now that Wellington has returned to its weather-y wondrousness.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know that this is allowed. The Dominion Post is allowed to print advertisements much in the same way that Wellington is allowed to have miserly wind and rain. In fact it’s expected! Wellington wouldn’t be Wellington if it didn’t have that wind and rain and the Dominion Post wouldn’t exist if it didn’t have advertisements.

The advert that the Dominion Post (and NZ Herald) were paid to publish. The advert that the Dominion Post (and NZ Herald) were paid to publish.

However the advertisement in question was one that encouraged people to visit a website and tick two boxes that stated they would not vote for any MP who supports the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill (the Bill) or any party whose leader supports the Bill.

I will now clearly state my bias – I support the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill as I believe current laws are discriminatory and that the Bill promotes equality.

This advert does a number of things:

It shows that there are people willing to pay a large amount of money to promote discrimination and that the Dominion Post is willing to take this money and ignore the content of the ad.

It feeds on fear and encourages ignorance through its hyperbolic nature and inaccurate statements.

When an advert such as this is printed questions should be asked.

Firstly: How does an advertisement like this get published?

Well it boils down to money. Whoever it was that paid for this ad paid a lot for it. Like I said above – without adverts the Dominion Post wouldn’t exist, they wouldn’t have a business model that could possibly allow them to print papers and provide them to over 230,000 people every day. So the Dominion Post hold out their hands get paid a lot of money and ignores the fact that this ad plays on the fear that ‘one of the worst acts of cultural vandalism’ will occur if the Bill is passed. The Dominion Post has published an advertisement that incites activism through fear in order to make a quick buck.

Secondly: Does this advert, despite ruffling my feathers and the feathers of other like minded individuals, meet the standards that are required in New Zealand?

The answer is: No. No it does not. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has a number of rules that advertisements must meet. This advert, in my opinion, breaches four of these rules and rather than just complain to friends about this and what the ad stands for,  I took it upon myself to use official channels and place a complaint to ASA.

My Complaint:

“I believe this advertisement in the Dominion Post, dated 11/04/2013, does not meet the advertising standards on the following grounds:

Rule 1 – Identification

While this advertisement does have the word ‘Advertisement’ in the top right hand corner the styling of the advert to look like official voting information, similar to what was published in the run up to the last general election means this is not “readily recognised as an advertisement” and is arguably not “clearly distinguishable as such”.

Rule 2 – Truthful presentation.

The ad contains a number of falsehoods, such as: “The politicians have ignored thousands of submissions,” and “They are ramming this bill through without giving it the due consideration and debate it deserves.” In fact, parliamentary process has been followed: over 21,000 submissions were received, 220 of which were heard and the bill will receive three readings, as is the regular process for Member’s Bills.
The advert also states that politicians have ignored the “consciences of celebrants, registrars, churches hosting weddings, and others in the wedding industry” when in fact these groups, along with everyone else who was inclined, were able to send a written submission to the Select Committee, as over 21,000 people or organisations did.

Rule 6 – Fear

Be labelling the passing of this Bill “one of the worst acts of cultural vandalism” and stating that “Marriage, in the process, will become meaningless” the advertiser uses fear to promote action. This advertisement
“without justifiable reason, play[s] on fear” and as such does not meet advertising standards.

Rule 11 – Advocacy Advertising

It is not clear who “My Marriage Pledge” is; whether they are affiliated with the church or the state, who has paid for the advertisement, or how to contact them. With an advertisement such as this, they should be more accountable. The code states: “The identity of an advertiser in matters of public interest or political issue should be clear,” and it is not in this case. This rule also states that “opinion should be clearly distinguishable from factual information” but as stated above, the number of falsehoods displayed as truth are actually opinions and therefore do not meet NZ advertising standards.”*

I invite you to file a complaint also. Use my text or make your own. But say something, because both the Dominion Post and this mysterious ‘My Marriage Pledge’ group should be held accountable for the publication of an advertisement that breaches New Zealand Standards and encourages discrimination.


*I used the majority of the text from Rachel Rayner’s post on the same issue and I thank her for being an enabler 🙂

Andy Lynch April 12, 2013 at 8:34 pm

It’s the work of Family First, although oddly they only mention this on their main site – the domain is also registered in their name.

Barry Jelbert April 12, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Yep, and they registered the domain on the 15th of March for one year. “My Marriage Pledge” will hopefully disappear in about 48 weeks.

A voice of reason. April 13, 2013 at 6:08 pm


None of the advertising rules have been breached. I’ll address each in turn:

1) Identification. The text ‘advertisement’ while not part of the heading is still clear and present within the advertisement to remove any doubt that the item is, in fact, an advertisement. If it were not present and this was styled as it is then you would have a case. Just because it does not pop as the first thing you see does not mean the rule has been breached, there is some responsibility on the consumer to, you know, use their eyes.

2) Truthful Presentation. No falsehoods have been presented by this advertising. The fact may be that politicians have ignored thousands of submissions. In this instance ignored does not mean not read but not acted as the submissions desire. The fact may be that more submissions for the law than against it were submitted but there are still thousands of voices against the change.

Due consideration and debate in the opinion of the advertiser may be more than a regular Member’s Bill normally receives because they feel this is a large issue. No falsehood has been presented here.

3) Fear. No aspect of fear has been used by this advertiser. In their opinion this law change is precisely what they state it to be. There is no attempt to make the consumer feel in danger for themselves or others.

4) Advocacy Advertising. I’m not sure if you read your scan of the advertisement but I see clear identification and contact information for this advertiser at the bottom of the image:

“Authorised by Protect Marriage Campaign, PO Box 276-233, Manukau City”

You and other complaints on this issue are simply an attempt to censor the free speech of others through legal means. It is a classic case of a dislike for an opinion becoming something wrong by twisting and misinterpreting the regulations. I suggest you consider the rights to equality you hold so dearly before trying to suppress others’ rights in the future.

not bob April 13, 2013 at 8:45 pm

hello Bob.

Logan April 13, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Clearly the commenter above me is delusional. And ultimately on the wrong side of history and civil rights. He/she also does not understand the concept of free speech. Let me break it down: lies are still not ok, and complaining about a misleading advertisement to a company (which is not the government) is not censorship. Get over yourself already.

I cancelled my subscription to the Dom Post because of this horrible, demeaning ad, and will also file a complaint.

Jan April 16, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Well, I have subscribed to the Dom Post and I congratulate them for upholding free speech which you are attempting to censor because you don’t like the message. You are talking through a hole in the head. The writer above you was clear and precise in his arguments. You are the delusional one. You are the one who is wanting to censor a message that you don’t like. Well, get this, there are plenty who don’t like the bill passing being pushed through parliament, rights to be heard at a select committee ignored. There are people who do not accept your opinion, so get over it.

Alastair Thompson April 13, 2013 at 8:50 pm

On the “Dominion” is prepared to take their money to publish the advert issue.

Why should they not do so? They need every $ they can get these days.

ByterNZ April 15, 2013 at 9:47 am

If this advert did not meet advertising standards, then political advertising of any type that didn’t meet your political views would not “meet advertising standards”. This is tame compared to the actual opinions on the matter.

There’s no way that this advert could be confused with “official voting information”. How could the title “If you vote to change marriage, we will vote to change you”, make anyone think it was providing voting information to the public? Plenty of submissions *were* ignored, mainly because they were filled with absolute vitrol, or were form submissions, etc. Saying this is “cultural vandalism” is an opinion, and not something that will raise fear in the general population, because everyone knows that certain people believe this is cultural vandalism. And there’s clear identification about who sponsored this advert. So I’m sorry, but you *are* trying to find excuses to shut down adverts that you don’t agree with for rather flimsy reasons and abusing the process. It’s petulent, and not helpful for your side, because this advert is not a real threat to you. Just let it go.

This advert is basically threatening politicians with losing the socially conservative vote. Since the socially conservative vote has never really been a force in NZ, it’s not going to succeed. Due to the underlying biological considerations, there will always be people who dislike gay marriage. Simply passing the law was never going to bring people into agreement. Be happy that The Pill was created, and in vitro fertilization is possible, and all the other factors that mean that gay relationships and marriage are no longer a massive biological threat to hetrosexual marriages as it used to be. But people who had to deal with the realities of society before The Pill will never fully accept gay marriage. Just live with it and move on. Be happy. You’re going to win.

Tom April 15, 2013 at 1:09 pm

“because everyone knows that certain people believe this is cultural vandalism”

There are also people who believe that the earth is flat, that vaccination makes you autistic, and that drinking Tui makes you manly. That doesn’t make them any less false or misleading.

The assertion that “Marriage, in the process, will become meaningless” is a clear attempt to play on fear: to assert that something that will absolutely zero effect on existing marriages will actually destroy them, and hence stir up fear among people who have nothing to fear.

“Be happy that The Pill was created, and in vitro fertilization is possible, and all the other factors that mean that gay relationships and marriage are no longer a massive biological threat to hetrosexual marriages as it used to be.” I’m sorry, what? I think several million of my neurons just died while trying to work out whether there was any sort of logic in that statement. You make it sound like gays are like ebola.

And yes, we’re going to win.

Jan April 16, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Getting a bill through and gaining acceptance are two different things. And yes, you’re never going to be accepted.

ByterNZ April 16, 2013 at 10:45 pm

I’d say whether a person *truely* accepts gay marriage or not has much to do with when their primary “courting period” was in time:

-If it was before The Pill and IVF (1950’s and earlier), then almost none will really accept it.
-If it was after The Pill but before IVF really came along (1970’s – 1980’s), then probably about 20 – 30% will really accept it.
-If it was well after The Pill and also when IVF was really becoming viable (1990’s and early 2000’s), then probably 60-70% will really accept it.
-If they’re just entering the courtship period or just went through it a few years ago (late 2000’s to present) and also was during the period when prostitution was made legal, then probably 80-90%.(Sorry, you’ll never get 100%.)

ByterNZ April 16, 2013 at 11:30 pm

You mentioned the “Tui makes you more manly” falsehood above. Does that mean that you complained against every Tui advert? The *stupidest* claim (approaching parody) I think I’ve heard around the manly theme was “You look like more of a man with a quarter pounder in your hand.”. Did you complain against that? Of course not. So it’s petulent to lay an official complaint about this particular advert on that basis.

If you’d like to understand why people *really* opposed gay marriage and persecuted homosexuality through much of history, then read “Sperm Wars” by Robin Baker, which explains the biological game theory (Hint: Homosexuality is a *continuum* between people (say men) who are only attracted to women vs those could be attracted to men but are mainly are attracted to woman vs some men who could be attracted to women but are mainly attracted to men and then the men who are only attracted to men. which means most of them are perfectly able and willing to have affairs with and impregnate women). And then consider:

-The Pill: Drastically lowered the barrier to entry into initial heterosexual sexual relationships (making homosexual encounters much less of an advantage to gaining sexual XP than it used to be), drastically decreased the opportunity window for cuckolding married women, and made it much more possible for women to have better career paths (Therefore also reducing the threat of members of Double Income No Kids gay couples seducing the wife of someone who’s household only had a single income since more and more households are also dual income and you’re much more likely to have a DINK period if the woman is on The Pill (This risk still makes the working class much more resistant towards gay marriage vs other groups). Consider the attitude of devout Catholic Males toward Gay Marriage (who’s wife cannot use the pill) vs the rest of the population.

-IVF: Meant that gay couples could have “legitimate children” vs having to have affairs with married women and cuckold their husbands, or get kicked out of the gene pool. Big reduction of threat.(and will hopefully make gay relationships more monogamous as time goes by).

And finally, the *real* fight was in allowing civil unions, because there really isn’t that much of a risk difference between allowing civil unions (with income sharing, stability, and freedom in identifying as a homosexual household) vs marriage.

So wrap your remaining neurons around considering those factors. Understanding the real reasons why some people are against Gay Marriage and homosexuality in general is much more gratifying (and productive) vs shadowboxing with the same religious arguments.

Jan April 16, 2013 at 8:22 pm

I will certainly be using my party vote to vote for the party whose leader didn’t vote for this Bill. As far as I am concerned, homosexuals and lesbians have civil unions and marriage can only ever be between a man and a woman in spite of what the law may say. No one is ever going to view Joe and Joe or Mary and Mary as being husband and wife … you can’t make something normal that basically isn’t.

Tracey April 17, 2013 at 7:36 am

“No one is ever going to view Joe and Joe or Mary and Mary as being husband and wife …”
That’s an awfully big claim. Although I suppose it is true. I will never view Joe and Joe as husband and wife. This Bill will allow same-sex couples to marry, it mentions nothing about one of them having to have a sex-change to do so. In my view, however, they will certainly be husband and husband.

I guess our votes will cancel each other out. You will be using your party vote to vote for the party whose leader didn’t vote for this Bill. I will be voting for the party whose leader did.

Jan April 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Yes, they may be husband and husband, but that is not a marriage. You can’t dress something up to be what it is not. Marriage has always been and will always be between a man and a woman.

shiny April 16, 2013 at 9:18 pm

good thing the opinion of bigots is worth nothing.

to have found love, through all the obstacles they put up, you’re way way way more than merely “acceptable”. and the truth is history will judge Jan as what she really is: a hater who hates

Jan April 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Not a hater who hates, just someone who is a realist and says that the idea of two people of the same gender considering themselves married is nonsensical – for one thing they can’t consummate the marriage – in effect the emperor has no clothes but people like yourself are blind to it. Keep your head in the sand as long as you like but you can’t change the reality of the situation. You can bring in a bill that says a chicken can marry someone but that is not a marriage and never can be. It might be the law but everyone knows the law in this case will be an Ass!

handsome April 17, 2013 at 2:11 am


Ryan C April 17, 2013 at 10:07 am

I went to a wedding at the Easter weekend. The celebrant said something quite pertinant of the occasion. To paraphrase roughly, he said “X and X have shown bravery in publicly acknowledging their love for each other. They do not know what obstacles may come their way but they are prepared to face them together.’

I thought it a good summation of marriage. It mattered not whther the two be man and a woman, man and man, woman and women, all that matters is that they love each other, and want the world to know it. How can one oppose that?

Regarding the complaint, although there may be technical breaches, I do not think they break the rules significantly enough so that action may be taken. Not unless 100’s complain as well, at least. For this piece of drivel, I can only hope my fellow readers can issue some critical thinking and intelligence to think beyond the soapboxing.

Jan April 17, 2013 at 3:03 pm

But how can someone support something that is farcical – they have the civil union that declares their love. What it boils down to is they are hoping for acceptance for something that does not exist. When they can run around waving a certificate that says “MARRIED” on it what difference is that going to make? Everyone knows the truth: they can’t even consummate that love – they can’t bear children together out of that love. They are just a couple of guys together or a couple of girls together going nowhere.

Tom April 17, 2013 at 3:40 pm

It’s not just same-sex couples who don’t or can’t have children; some same-sex couples will adopt children; many non-married couples have children. Breeding is not the defining quality of love or marriage.

Are straight people such as me who also won’t have children “going nowhere”? When people who have heterosexual sex while using birth control, or in a way that cannot lead to children, are they also not “consummating” their love?

You may consider the marriages of same-sex couples to be “farcical”, but many or most of us will be happy to acknowledge and celebrate their marriages. You are quite welcome to think what you think while you and your blinkered kind wither away into irrelevance. Just don’t stop others from getting the rights they want and need, and don’t fill our newspapers with false and hate-fuelled advertising.

Jan April 19, 2013 at 9:58 am

Obviously you don’t get the point – no same sex couple are capable of producing children, are they? To put it simply for those who do not understand biology, two sperm cannot unite to produce an egg, two ova cannot unite to produce an egg – end of story. Homosexuals can dress up as bride and bride or groom and groom – but the pathos of it is that “Marriage” for homosexuals cannot ever truly exist, in which case the law is an ass.

Ryan C April 19, 2013 at 10:15 am

I truly hope that are not so deluded as to think that marriage is required for sexual reproduction.

I know many people who chose not to have children, and yet remain as happily married couples. Why? Because marriage is about love. It’s not about being a pair of reproductive organisms.

Rebecca April 17, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Shockingly, some women can’t have children. Should they then never never get married? Avoid relationships because those relationships will never go anywhere? What if someone finds out after years of marriage that they can’t have children? Should the other partner divorce them because their relationship is “going nowhere?”

This also assumes that all love is consummated with p in v sex which is a rather limiting way to enjoy one’s sex life.

Jan April 19, 2013 at 10:03 am

I am talking about “marriage” as regards society. If homosexuals want children they are going to have to use the egg or sperm of a donor – they are incapable themselves of ever reproducing their love as heterosexuals are – therefore “marriage” for them does not and cannot ever exist and that makes the law a farce.

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