See the update at the end of the article

By now most people in New Zealand are probably aware of the Health Sponsorship Council’s decision to edit their “Smoking not our future” ad, or as the New Zealand Herald put it “Piri Weepu’s baby bottle advert ban” (for further reading check the links at the bottom). Though the article did say that breastfeeding support group La Leche League‘s opinion was canvassed (among others) it also incorrectly attributed an email campaign to them and left the general populace with the incorrect assumptions that LLL were butting in where they weren’t welcome, had started a campaign and banned the advert. In reality they merely provided feedback when asked that resulted in 2 seconds of film being removed while still maintaining the message of positive male parenting through a smoke free environment. The 2 second clip featured Piri Weepu, a hugely popular All Black after his incredible kicking efforts during Rugby World Cup 2011, bottle feeding his daughter. The Ministry of Health is actively trying to increase New Zealand’s low breastfeeding rate so the feedback from all the groups was to remove the clip and thus try to prevent undermining an important government funded health campaign. There was never any comment that Piri and his partner should be breastfeeding, there was no criticism of them at all, only that the images this ad may have contained would work against other ads. But alas this was lost in translation into eye catching headlines. On most Herald articles there is link to send a link out via Twitter and a link to see who had already done so. Today I followed that link and immediately saw someone who had got the wrong end of the stick and thought I could perhaps correct them. It didn’t work, and I got labelled a troll, spam and an ass for trying to stand up for reality. Here is the transcript of the back and forth with @kchawkings:

KH: Hell to the yes! Go Piri! “They are my kids, I’m not going to have anyone tell me how to raise me kids.” via @nzherald

CS: @KCHawking ….said the man in the how to raise your kids advert to the people not telling him anything about raising his kids.

KH: @craigstanton dude, do you have nothing better to do than hunt down every mention of that article on twitter?

CS: @KCHawkings @NZHerarld linked to all the tweets at the top of article, I’m just doing what I can to correct a massive misunderstanding.

KH: @craigstanton And again I ask: Do you have nothing better to do? @NZHerarld

CS: @KCHawkings Do you have nothing better to do that comment on the article to start with? Maybe spend some time looking into the facts first.

KH: @craigstanton I commented because I support Piri being a great role model for fathers everywhere. Did they not stop to think that the benefits of the images would outweigh the negatives? That’s not to mention the numerous reasons a baby may not be able to drink from the breast. A fair amount of the people who follow me subscribe to the same beliefs, judging by the positive response I’ve received. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing wrong with Piri bottle feeding his daughter, and in my opinion it’s PC bullshit gone mad. It should never have been an issue in the first place. Now get off your high horse and go SPAM someone else, because that’s all your tweets are: Short Pointless Annoying Messages.

CS: @KCHawkings The benefits existed in all the other shots in that ad. They made no comment at all about whether or not he should bottle feed. I made that comment in support of a wonderful volunteer organisation who were asked and gave their opinion.

KH: Come on Kate, there’s no need to feed the trolls. Just because some guy is being an ass doesn’t mean you need to reply. Just block him.

CS: @KCHawkings I’m not being an ass, read what really happened, you’re dumping on a great bunch of people because the NZHerald misinformed you

There seemed no hope of getting the message across that LLL had not told Piri or any other parent what to do within the confines of Twitter, so as a last ditch attempt I have emailed her directly and await a reply, though I honestly don’t expect one.

I’m sorry if I came across as an ass to you, that was never my intention. Nor to troll nor spam. If you’re willing to hear what I have to say about how the NZHerald has twisted what happened then please read on. If you’re already reaching for the delete key then you can at least be sure that I won’t try to contact you again.

I’m glad you’re still reading. I read the Herald article and saw the link to tweets that mentioned it so I went to see what people thought. I was really surprised at how many people thought that the breastfeeding group, particularly La Leche League had criticized Piri in some way. They definitely didn’t. They have no knowledge of his situation and even then I’ve never known them to criticize people for their choices, they just provide support for people who have made the choice to breastfeed. Despite the headlines of “ban” and “protest” etc etc what actually happened was very simple. The Health Sponsorshop Council made an ad to promote the non-smoking message. They consulted with multiple breastfeeding groups and received the same feedback from all, that the bottle feeding scene would go against another government funded health message trying to make breastfeeding more acceptable. It was not an attempt to degrade the value of bottle feeding, they have been very clear on that. The HSC edited out 2 seconds of footage from the ad and maintained their message that a loving, caring dad looks after his children in a non-smoking environment, with absolutely no comment on how he chooses to feed them. If it ended there the ad would have gone to air and no-one would have any anything to worry about. But then the Herald ran a piece that many people misunderstood to mean that these groups wanted the whole ad banned, and that they were having a go at Piri when then really weren’t.

So why do I care? Well I know a lot of people involved with one of the groups that were asked for feedback. They are wonderful mums giving so much time to a volunteer organisation that is saddens me to see so many people calling them names like Nazis and Breastapo. Some of them even bottle feed their children, but are still on hand to offer advice on breastfeeding when it is sought. They were simple asked their opinion and gave it, then New Zealand replied with an outpouring of hate. It was a matter of keeping New Zealand health messages on target and not contradicting each other. Akin to making sure no-one in a sober driving ad is smoking. Your tweet seemed be based on what I thought would be a simple to correct misunderstanding about what the groups said (or in fact didn’t say) about Piri’s parenting. I had hoped that if I could point you towards the facts of the case you might see that you were mislead and that there would be one less voice denigrating the work these ladies do.

With all that said I really am sorry if you felt harassed on Twitter, or if this email is too much. Your website has a Contact Me button so I figured you’d be open to listening to random strangers from the internet. I won’t bother you again.

Craig, proud father to be, T minus 10.5 weeks and counting :-)

Further reading:

NZ Herald feedback page
La Leche League’s press release about the ad
La Leche League FAQ about supplementing milk supply, note there is no judgement in the words “…recommending a specific infant formula is beyond the scope of La Leche League. Please consult with your health care provider.”

Health Sponsorship Council’s response to the Positive Men group on Facebook when asked to reinstate the footage

Thank you for your interest in the Smoking Not Our Future ad.

As part of a standard post-production process we identified the (two-second) bottle-feeding shot as one for possible re-editing two weeks ago. As a result we asked for comment from La Leche League NZ and Plunket NZ. After receiving feedback a decision was made last Wednesday (1 February) to replace the shot with one that continues to show Piri in his role as a loving father, providing a smokefree home and car for his whanau.

The advert will go to air Sunday 12 February as planned.


Update Sept 6th: 2012
The Press Council has upheld a complaint by La Leche League about the NZHerald’s coverage of the story. A few important points are:

  • The League did not mention Piri Weepu or comment on his fathering skills.
  • The Council notes that the newspaper is now willing to make a correction, but the claim as published was a serious one, it did cast a slur on La Leche, and the Council finds no evidence that the League called Weepu’s role as a dad into question.
  • That this was not the image at the centre of the controversy should have been made clear to readers.
  • It did seem to the Council that at times the La Leche League was being pilloried for things they did not say or believe.
  • The Council does not believe that the use of the word censorship is warranted. The League made a suggestion, the HSC considered the suggestion and willingly removed the image from their own advertisement. This is not censorship.

Unfortunately the Herald was not so keen on publishing the correction. Relegating it to page 34 and not putting it front and center like they did with their original inflammatory articles. So, Miss Hawkings, if you’d like to apologize the door is wide open.

One Response to “My take on the smoke-free ad debacle”

  1. Larah Says:

    Just an idea, but…. to everyone who has received help and support from an LLL member, how about sending a card, or making a phone call to tell them their work is appreciated? The lovely LLL mothers who volunteer their time and energy (to support other mothers who’ve sought their help) are being harrassed and bullied in their own homes with nasty phone calls and emails. Every sensible person who has read *anything* other than the *hamster-bedding of an article*(well, if I’d bought it, that’s all I’d use it for) that NZH rolled out last week, knows that LLL have done nothing but support families with young babies, and this is what they’ll continue to do. They should be proud, and we should be proud and grateful for their hard work. If you don’t know a local leader then send something to the Office, which is run by just 3 ladies, part-time, so you can just imagine how innundated with emails, phone calls and letters they’ve been over the last week!! So yeah…. make a tired, tearful, harrassed LLL mum feel better today… and tell her how her hardwork helped you. ***P.S. I’m not an LLL member. My opinions are my own, and not the responsibility of any other person or organisation ***

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