Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Playing Catch with Franz and Hermes

I am officially a grumpy old man. I have been one unofficially for many, many years, but a while back I confirmed my status by making a complaint against a television advert. In my defense, I had been drinking at the time. That, and I'm an anal git. There's an online form, which made it so easy. I'm not allowed to be specific in what my complaint was, but I'd like to share with you my amusement with the process and verdicts.

My complaint was heard. It took place without any input or observation by myself, which is the norm, behind closed doors with an official bringing the complaint. The letter I received informing me about the hearing was polite, but a little lacking in details. The tribunal had not decided to uphold my complaint. I thought that was the end of the matter.

The fun part came many weeks later when I got another letter that revealed there had been an appeal. The appeal focused on a portion of the original decision that had said my complaint was rejected because the advertiser was only using hyperbole. No-one was meant to take what the ad said seriously. The decision referenced a certain energy drink ad that implies you can fly after drinking a can. No-one really believes that, and it is not a breach of the code. My complaint was rejected on similar grounds.

But the appeal decision went on to say that the comparison with the energy drink hyperbole was not valid. My original complaint was correct, the advert was representing something real and doing so in a misleading manner. They had made a mistake in the original decision.

But there was a sting in the tail. The appeal judgment noted that while the initial decision had been incorrect, that was not in itself a valid reason to appeal. They were saying (deep breath); Yes you were right, the ad was in breach, we made a mistake in our first ruling, but you cannot appeal that because the rules do not allow appeals on the grounds that what we decided initially was wrong, which it was, but you can't appeal that, so your complaint is rejected.

It was another triumph of red-taped officialdom.

What was I to do? I re-read a book on Kafka (a simple, short book with illustrations by Robert Crumb) and watched Brazil. Maybe I should get Catch-22 down off the shelf as well?

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