4 Oct 2020

Sustainable NZ campaign advert uses actor to play business owner

4:35 pm on 4 October 2020

The Sustainable New Zealand Party has admitted that a woman featured in one of its online video advertisements is not a small business owner named Jill, but is the partner of the party's leader.

Sustainable New Zealand Party leader Vernon Tava talking to a woman portrayed as a supporter named Jill, but who is actually an actor.

A screenshot from the Sustainable New Zealand Party ad which shows party leader Vernon Tava talking to a woman portrayed as a business owner, but who is actually an actor. Photo: Screenshot / Sustainable NZ

The ad featured party leader Vernon Tava talking to a supporter named Jill, who is a small business owner frustrated with the direction New Zealand is headed.

However, when approached by RNZ, Tava admitted the woman was an actor named Julie, who is also his partner.

He also confirmed a shortened version of the ad had featured on a television network.

Despite this, Tava said he did not believe the ad was misrepresentative.

"We're not selling a product, and it certainly hasn't purported to be a documentary," he said.

"We haven't made any statements that these are genuine people talking about their genuine businesses or other practices."

Tava said it was commonplace, in his understanding, to use actors for ads.

He also said the script was based on an amalgamation of conversations with real people.

"It is surprisingly difficult to find people who are actually able to convincingly deliver on camera, so that's why we did it the way they did."

When asked if viewers would be able to distinguish between an actor and a 'real person' without disclosure, Tava said he did not think it was "relevant to the communication of the message of the party".

However, a senior lecturer for marketing at Auckland University said there was a chance the ad breached advertising standards.

"I think that portraying her as a small business owner, not disclosing the fact that she is an actor and is in fact his partner, I think that most people would see that as not quite telling the full truth," Dr Bodo Lang said.

"He hasn't, maybe not told a lie here, but he certainly hasn't disclosed the truth and my sense is that this would be a breach of the standards."

Lang pointed to the second principle in the Advertising Standards Code called 'Truthful Presentation'.

The section states that ads must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, deceive or confuse consumers or exploit their lack of knowledge.

"This includes by implication, inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, unrealistic claim, omission, false representation or otherwise."

Tava said he did not believe the ad to be genuinely misrepresentative or misleading at all.

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