Two TV ads, for Twinings teas have been cleared by the advertising watchdog after allegations of racism.
The ads star comedian Stephen Fry as the manager of a Twining Teashop together with a young black actor playing the role of his assistant ‘Tyrone’.
In one ad, a white woman sits with her friends, turns to Fry and says with a note of knowing, "Tyrone's been filling us in.” The women laugh and look at Tyrone, who drops a tin of tea to the floor.
In another, Fry discusses the sexual innuendo around a slogan thought up by Tyrone, ‘Earl Grey pits the zing in your ding-a-ling.” The ad closes with Tyrone saying, "You feel it brother. You feel it."
A viewer complained to the Advertising Standard’s Authority (ASA) that she believed the ads were both offensive and harmful because she believed they played on a negative racial stereotype of a black man as sexually promiscuous and there to provide sexual services for white women.
Advertising agency Lowe, on behalf of Twinings, said the ads had been broadcast a number of times since October 2006 and this was the first complaint they had received via the ASA. They believed they would have received more complaints if viewers generally had found the ad racist.
They added that Tyrone was not created out of a stereotype but was intended to be a way of contemporising the brand and making tea cool.
Race was not central or relevant to the ads, they believed, because the premise between Tyrone and Fry was young versus old, cool versus un-cool.
Clearcast - responsible for the pre-transmission examination and clearance of television advertisements - said at no point did they imagine that the ad would cause any racial offence.
They added that they believed the innuendo was light and similar in style to a ‘Carry On’ film.
The ASA ruled that Tyrone was shown as a positive character. Because neither ad was reliant on race for its humour, they added, viewers generally were unlikely to believe the ads implied that black men were promiscuous or there to provide sexual services for white women.
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