Wicked Campers’ refusal to engage with authorities over its slogans may be part of its branding strategy, a marketing expert claims.
The company’s founder and owner John Webb has silently refused to comply with Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rulings about the van’s offensive slogans, or engage with the complaints process.
The latest slogan the ASA has ordered be removed from its rental cars read: “Attention Thieves. Thou Shalt Not Steal. God Is Watching You Thieving C…”
Dr Jayne Krisjanous, of Victoria University of Wellington’s school of marketing and international business, believes Webb has not responded, simply “because he doesn’t have to”.
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“Obviously self-regulation is not something he respects, which is a shame.”
His silent response could be part of his marketing strategy, Krisjanous said. “That might be part of the personally he’s trying to build for the brand, it’s out there, sock it to them, f-you kind of brand. “He may consider it important that he doesn’t respond or he may just be disinterested,” she said. “But I think the publicity that this brand owner is getting, or brand is getting, is… that they are arrogant and don’t want to play the game.
“He can give say, ‘Stuff you all, I’ll do what I like’.”
Last week, the ASA upheld a complaint after someone labelled two of Wicked’s slogans as “offensive” and “crude”.
It was the latest in at least nine complaints brought against the company in 12 months.
On Tuesday, an ASA spokeswoman said Wicked had not responded to any of its requests, and, as far as she was aware, the company had not complied with its rulings.
The ASA complaints board also expressed concern at Wicked’s refusal to respond to complaints or respect the principles of self-regulation.
In 2016, five of Wicked Campers’ most offensive vehicles were banned from New Zealand’s roads, following a landmark ruling from the Classification Office.
It meant that the vans were banned from public places in New Zealand, and Wicked could face a fine of up to $200,000 per offence if it continued to use them, or a term of imprisonment.
Deputy chief censor Jared Mullen said the Classification Office was not dealing with other complaints against Wicket Campers.
The office did not have the power to ban the company from the roads, as each case was assessed and ruled individually, he said.
Mullen said the Classification Office had not had dealings with the Webb, instead dealing with a law firm acting on his behalf.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) chief executive Chris Roberts said Wicked Campers were operating outside industry norms.
“While Wicked is not breaking any laws, they have demonstrated that they do not care about their standing within the tourism industry.”
Membership of TIA – which Wicked does not hold – required companies to sign up to a code of ethics, which required procedures for dealing with complaints, and to uphold New Zealand’s reputation as a quality destination.
Webb, who founded Wicked in Brisbane, has not responded to requests for comment.