This is a post about Z.
The New Zealand Superannuation Fund bought Shell NZ, and has rebranded Shell petrol stations in New Zealand as Z.
A string of ads featuring jaunty service station attendants tell us all the great things they’re doing.
You can view these ads on their youtube channel. In particular have a look at the ads marked Trial and Neighbourhood.
As with most jaunty corporate things I find these ads very irritating. So I sent an insincere email to them.
I received this reply.
Which, you will notice, ignores my second question.
I dutifully went and looked at the
advertisement information on their website about their community donations. Actually, I have to admit that this looks worthwhile and well set up.
A part of me really wanted to hear for a fact that the annoying, jaunty employees were paid actors so I sent another email (with typos).
Today I got an answer.
Firstly, let me say that in an advertising environment where a company like Bunning’s clearly use real employees in their ads, an advert where you have people walking around on your forecourts and in your shops saying “we” and “us” and “you” and “our” is lying.
Secondly, the casting director for the advertising agency Z is using is clearly
racist a victim of stereotypes. The problem is not that this approach is overt, the problem is that it is covert, unnoticed by the people writing it, acting in it and viewing it, but subtley adding to an overall impression of race created by a wide range of sources. Please note as you go through the Trial ads (click on this link and then let autoplay take you through five 20 second ads) the following facts:
- When Z talks about pies, food or coffee the faces are brown
- When Z shows low skilled jobs like cleaning windscreens the face is brown
- When low skilled work is taking place the people in the nice cars are white
- When Z talks about making the community better its faces are white
- When Z talk about technical stuff like sat navs its face is Asian
Even in their flagship ad explaining what the whole thing is we get:
- White people talking about investment, and plans, and vision, and
- Brown people talking about trucks and building work (and saying “coz we reackon Z stands for New Zealand” at the end)
Well, I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a bit shit.