Joburg’s ‘World Class African

Joburg’s ‘World Class African City’ advert banned for being misleading

Johannesburg resident lodges consumer complaint that the City of Johannesburg’s long-running marketing campaign contains “blatant untruths”

Joburg’s ‘World Class African

SAT-000-1208G (Medium)

The City of Johannesburg has been ordered to stop running part of its “World-Class African city” campaign by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which ruled it was “misleading”.

The decision came after Johannesburg resident Steven Haywood lodged a consumer complaint that the city’s long-running marketing campaign contained “blatant untruths”. Haywood took issue with one particular radio advert that encouraged listeners to imagine themselves living in a recession-immune environmentally friendly “world class African city”.

“Imagine a city where you can rest assured, knowing that it is financially stable; that there is ongoing electrification of homes. A city that is saving the environment through different energy-efficient interventions. A city that continues to create new jobs despite the economic downturn. Can you imagine living in such a city? You do. These are just some of the City of Joburg’s many significant achievements.  Imagine what we’re doing for you tomorrow. Joburg, a World-Class African City,” the advert boasted.

Although the city praised its financial stability, Haywood pointed out that it had actually received three qualified audits, with R12 billion worth of revenue being written off this year as “unlikely to materialise”, while its waste management service provider Pikitup was bankrupt and “leaves refuse lying in the streets for days” and the Johannesburg Roads Agency was unable to repair the city’s roads.

On the city’s claim to be environmentally friendly, Haywood said electricity worth R1.2-billion and water worth R800 million were being lost monthly.

The Advertising Standard Authority based its decision on a clause in the Code of Advertising Practice that states that adverts should not contain “any statement or visual representation which, directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity, inaccuracy, exaggerated claim or otherwise, is likely to mislead the consumer”. It ruled that the advert “communicates a ‘misleading message about the overall wellbeing of the respondent'”.

The city did not respond to his complaint, leaving the advertising authority with “no option but to rule based on the submission at hand”.

Although the city of Johannesburg has neither confirmed nor denied Haywood’s allegations, The ASA said that the “Report of the Auditor-General to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature and Council on the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality” on the municipality’s website website appeared to “support the allegations of financial instability”.

Fred Mokoko, a spokesperson for the mayor of Johannesburg, told AFP on Wednesday they would appeal the ruling. “Our lawyers are busy preparing the appeal documents, we are appealing… we were never offered a chance to state our case,” said Mokoko.

He said the “world class” statement was the city’s 2040 growth vision, coined in 2005, and can be seen on advertising posters and glossy in-flight magazines.