BMW has come under fire for placing a controversial Mini Cooper billboard advertisement near the spot where jailed hip-hop star Molemo "Jub Jub" Maarohanye and a friend ploughed into a group of Soweto schoolchildren while drag racing in Mini Coopers.
A typical Mini billboard seen on SA's roads. People complained about Mini's billboard, with a statement that read "Drive it like it's Stolen". Ironically, the billboard itself has been stolen. Image: Ad Forum
The billboard, next to the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, featured the outline of a Mini Cooper with a large hole where the car should be, and a banner across it reading "Drive it like it's stolen!".
Two Johannesburg residents, Macbeth Ngema and Candice Nene, took umbrage against the "insensitive" advert, saying it "promotes and glorifies the stealing of cars, speeding and reckless driving".
"The billboard was especially distasteful," Nene said, "because it was placed near where Maarohanye and Themba Tshabalala killed four schoolchildren and seriously injured two others in 2010. The pair are serving 25-year jail terms.
Ngema and Nene complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about the "irresponsible and offensive" advert, but the authority decided not to rule on the matter after BMW promised not to use the phrase "Drive it like it's stolen!" again. The authority also noted the billboard - after the complaints were received - has since been stolen for a second time.
BMW said the wording was chosen after the original billboard, which contained an image of a Mini Cooper, had also been stolen. The phrase was thus a "tongue-in-cheek reference" to that theft.
Ngema, 41, was not amused. The Soweto father of four said: "That phrase is pushing people to do wrong in our townships," he said.
Nene, 36, a Naturena mother of three, said: "It was as if the billboard encouraged people to steal cars. Mini Coopers get a [reputation] as easy targets because they are fast."
BMW Group spokesman Edward Makwana said: "The intention was in no way aimed at unravelling the sensitive issue associated with an incident that occurred on that road in the past."
Source: The Times via I-Net Bridge