Another ‘Wicked’ Campervan Banned

by Sonia Hickey
Lab of wonderful colors animation

Wicked Campers has had yet another of its vans banned by Ad Standards, but its vans continue to attract anger on the streets.

The most recent slogan to come before Ad Standards was painted similarly to a Dr Suess book, and featured a caricature of Walter White from Breaking Bad with the words “Mr White can make BLUE, can you?”

The complaint alleged that the slogan was “glamorising drug use and the manufacturing of illegal substances that have destroyed families and killed individuals by their use”.

Glamorising drug manufacturing

Ad Standards found that the reference to Mr White and ‘blue’ drew parallels to the Breaking Bad series, in which White makes blue crystal meth.

“The advertisement would have sent a clear message in support of drug manufacturing to people who were aware of the show, or to anyone who looked up the references on the vehicle”, the regulator remarked, adding that format was additionally problematic because it is “attractive” to children.

“No publicity is bad publicity”

This is the 79th complaint upheld against Wicked Campers since 2012, but the popularity of its vans does not seem to have suffered.

The company did not respond to the latest ruling, and legal commentators say little can be done from a legal standpoint.

Vans continue to travel the streets with slogans such as:

“Gay guys settle disputes by going outside and exchanging blows” and “In every princess there is a little slut who wants to try it just once.”

Police say they are powerless to take the vehicles off the road unless there is evidence of dangerous or otherwise illegal driving.

Laws governing discrimination ‘offensive language’ do not provide an avenue for redress or prosecution. However, Federal Greens Senator, Larissa Waters, led a successful motion in the Senate in July 2014 to remove some of the most offensive slogans. Wicked owner John Webb indicated he would comply with the directive, but the company continues to paint slogans which are offensive to many.

Tasmania, the ACT and Queensland have recently indicated an intention to deregister Wicked Vans if the company does not abide by Advertising Standards rulings. New South Wales, however, has not followed suit.

In the face of reluctance from the NSW State Government to intervene, local councils are taking matters into their own hands.

Local councils take up the fight

The Blue Mountains Council has banned Wicked Campers from two popular council-owned caravan parks, at Blackheath and Katoomba.

Byron Shire Council has also banned the vans from council-owned caravan parks, and from its local shire, after failing to persuade the state government to issue a state-wide ban.

Greens upper house MP Mehreen Faruqi, says she is still working on NSW Parliament legislation that would amend the Road Transport Act 2013 to prohibit vehicles bearing offensive slogans.

Many of vans bearing such slogans will continue to roam our streets in the meantime.

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Autumn 2021.

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