Rona building bad blood with TV ad

Chris Cobb, CanWest News Service

Published: Friday, August 03, 2007

OTTAWA -- Canada's advertising watchdog has ruled a TV commercial promoting Rona, the chain of building supply stores, is unfit for Canadian audiences because it discriminates against men.

The ruling follows a complaint by a Calgary man who saw the commercial while watching a renovation show on the HGTV channel and was offended that it stated all husbands are layabouts. The commercial features a female customer going into a Rona store with an imaginary complaint called "homestressidous."

A sympathetic female clerk suggests the customer's husband never helps around the house. The customer confirms this and the clerk responds: "That's OK. They [husbands] are all like that."

Peter Regan, the Calgary single parent who complained about the commercial, said he found it offensive and part of a pattern of TV shows and TV commercials that portray men as "losers." Regan, 47, complained first to Rona who responded quickly and said the commercial was meant to be humorous.

"I was disappointed in their response," he said in an interview. "They said they were just joking around but at what point do you stop joking around?

"The average Canadian father is a pretty decent human being. This portrayal of men as knuckle-dragging Neanderthals or habitual lazy drunkards robs our boys and families of role models."

Regan, father of a 10-year-old son, said Rona's lack of willingness to understand the "bigger picture" pushed him to complain to Advertising Standards Canada.

"Why is it OK to bash men?" he said. "We can't allow commercials that degrade hard-working people -- not just men but anyone. It was a boost to win this -- it made me feel good. It's heartening that Advertising Standards Canada saw this was wrong and did something about it. But it can't be all their responsibility. People have to speak up when they feel something is wrong."

Advertising Standards Canada (ASA) vice-president Janet Feasby refused to discuss the Rona commercial until the official ruling has been made public but in a letter to Regan she confirmed the decision and said the panel of industry experts who considered his complaint had agreed the commercial contravened regulations and disparaged men and/or married men.

Under ASA regulations, Rona must either amend or pull the commercial. It may also appeal the decision.

Last year, ASC received 1,040 complaints from consumers about 723 advertisements.

Forty of those advertisements were judged to have contravened Canadian standards.

Retail or store advertising garnered the most complains, followed by automobile commercials.

Ottawa Citizen