The Ad Standards Board (ASB) has ruled that it's not racist to criticise foreign call centres in advertisements that promote onshore services: the white actor can even throw in an exaggerated eye roll.
Support Staff picture from Shutterstock
Last month, the ASB received a complaint for Choosi insurance that featured a woman rolling her eyes during a reference to non-"Aussie" call centres.
In the offending segment, a woman praises the virtues of Choosi's call centre before pausing, rolling her eyes and adding it's "Aussie too”.
The complainant argued that the 'Aussie' remark utilised a racist stereotype that call centers are filled with foreigners and implicitly implies that Choosi excludes certain prospective employees on the basis of their race.
"[This] creates a subtext that a call centre that is not staffed by 'Aussies' would somehow provide a less rewarding/understanding experience for the customer," the complaint claimed.
You can see the video below:
The ASB dismissed the complaint with the following statement:
"We acknowledge that the advertisement includes the statement that has been complained about. However, we disagree with the complainant's view that this is a racist remark that contravenes the AANA Code of Ethics (the Code) either directly or by implication.
"...The phrase 'Aussie call centre' in the context with which it is used is clearly describing the location of the call centre and not the racial or ethnic make-up of the employees working within the call centre. We further argue that the word 'Aussie' is racially and ethnically neutral, and at any rate the statement made cannot accurately be described as vilifying."
We'd argue that the ASB only got it half right. While we wouldn't charge the advertisement with flat-out racism, it's highly doubtful that the advertisers were referring to the physical location of their call centre. It is far more likely that the comment was directed at offshore support staff and their perceived inability to speak coherent English.
As the complainant puts it: "The choice of [white] actors for the testimonial make it quite clear who the advertisers are identifying as Australian. The argument is offensive to Australians who may not be white or speak with a non-standard Australian accent."
We'd like to get your take on all this. Do you think its racist to make blanket statements about the superiority of localised call centres? Is the quality of service from overseas call centres really that bad? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.