David Jones vs Clive Hamilton

Upmarket department store David Jones is taking the Australia Institute to court, accusing it of misleading or deceptive conduct for describing DJ’s advertising of children’s clothes as ‘corporate paedophilia’. According to the Australia Institute, the department store’s catalogue posed child models in sexually provocative ways, something David Jones denies strongly. Whatever the merits – or lack thereof – of David Jones’ claim there is some irony to be enjoyed here. In his 2005 book Affluenza Australia Institute Executive Director Clive Hamilton includes a ‘Political Manifesto for Well-being’ that declares:

‘advertising codes of conduct should be legislated so that irresponsible and deceptive marketing is outlawed’.

An adverse finding for Hamilton will see him punished by legislation he thinks should be strengthened and enforced much more vigorously. Be careful what you wish for…

Irony enjoyment aside, I think this is a regrettable action by David Jones. The best course of action here was a debate over the value of the Australia Institute’s claims, which indeed occurred last year. Clearly the Australia Institute was engaged in hyperbole (otherwise the DJ’s advertising people would be behind bars), but there were divided views over whether their advertising in question went too far or not. But if people didn’t like the advertising, nobody is forcing them to shop at DJ’s.

Given his persistent opposition to freedom of commercial speech it’s going to be hard for Hamilton to credibly play the free speech martyr. But perhaps this will be lesson to him in the virtues of not regulating speech via the courts. There are widely differing views about what constitutes acceptable speech, and this diversity has been dealt with via a mix of social norms as to what it is and is not acceptable to say and show, and helping people avoid what they don’t want to see or hear via ratings systems or self-help. Generally, censorship has been limited to extreme cases where there is little disagreement or clear harm flows from publication (though with exceptions such as vilification laws). If you think DJ’s catalogues are offensive, just put them straight into the bin (or the recycling bin, as Clive would insist). The alternatives – censorship or heavy-handed legal action – are worse than the original problem.

7 thoughts on “David Jones vs Clive Hamilton

  1. That is kind of funny.

    I wonder how Clive proposed to determine which advertising is ‘irresponsible and deceptive’. A panel of people who think like him perhaps?

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  2. In recent days I happen to comment to my wife (74) that I find it inappropriate that women are appearing on television in their underwear.
    Sure, I admit that looking at a beautiful woman is not something I shy from. Albeit more of recent times, and because it is dished up, but quite frankly I for one hope none of my daughters and/or granddaughters will end up parading in their underwear on television or elsewhere.

    Perhaps the word discreet is not common any longer.

    My eldest daughter proudly announced I could see my granddaughter on a website in family photo

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  3. Andrew,

    I disagree with you, that if we don’t like DJ’s advertising then we should just put the catalogue in the bin. For unfortunately, the problem with advertising is its pervasive nature. We have no real choice about seeing it, if we choose to live a normal life for it is full frontal at the bus or tram stop and on TV.
    The issue of the sexualisation of children is an interesting case in terms of advertising. However if DJ’s has something to answer for, and I am partial to the case that they may, then so to do many other retailers and companies.

    On a tangent note, it does seem as if the tide is changing on some of the sexism so blatantly displayed at the football – of all places. With Russell Crowe determining no more cheer leaders. As you know I am a BIG fan of the NRL and the advertising at any live game is horrendously sexist- and while a great fan of Russell’s acting, though not his antics, his actions in this case has raised my opinion of him. It will be very interesting to see how South fans take the new entertainment model.

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  4. Michelle – Though we all tune out the vast bulk of information, including advertising, that hits our senses every day. It had never occurred to me that advertising of children’s clothing was sexualised until the DJs/Australia Institute controversy. I’ve probably seen the advertising, but with no interest in buying children’s clothes it was instantly forgotten, along with the faces of stangers, types of cars etc that I see every day. I’ve stumbled hopelessly on the phone as market researchers try to get me to remember their client’s advertising (even for water restrictions, most recently, that I am aware of).

    Of course I instantly delete everything about the NRL as well.

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