The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that describing unqualified financial advisers as “cowboys” is a fair cop.
Stephen Parr, a registered financial adviser with Camelot NZ, complained to the ASA about a series of newspaper advertisements publicising the start of the new financial advisers registration regime.
The ads, designed by Ogilvy, read: “Cowboys BELONG IN THE MOVIES.”
Mr Parr took the advertisements as a slight on his profession. “The advertisement is socially irresponsible and seeks to depict financial advisers as cowboys. This is deeply offensive to financial advisers and their clients and the industry at large,” he wrote in his complaint.
Mr Parr claimed the advertisements were an “abuse of power,” “denigrates the financial advisory profession as a whole,” and were guilty of “perpetuating the myth that financial advisers are cowboys.”
In response the FMA outlined why they had made reference to horse-riding gunslingers: “The term ‘cowboy’ is colloquially applied to an unqualified tradesperson or supplier of services. Specifically in the financial markets arena, New Zealand has unfortunately been perceived for some time as a ‘wild west’ with few rules and little enforcement.”
Fairfax Media, who ran the ad, noted that Mr Parr had conceded that some advisers were probably worthy of the title: “As an aside Mr Parr seems to agree that there is some truth in the advertisement by stating ‘I note that a few lawyers, accountants, doctors, politicians and government officials have also been found to be liars and cheats.’ ‘Also’ being the key word,” the media organisation wrote.
The ASA threw out Mr Parr’s complaint and determined it was not upheld. “The advertisement did not reach a threshold to cause serious or widespread offence in light of generally prevailing community standards and did not denigrate identifiable products. The Complaints Board also considered that the advertisement did not play on fear,” the decision concluded.
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