My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding ad complaints: Travellers “shocked” at ASA decision

Hackney’s Gypsies and Travellers are up in arms the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) will not investigate the marketing campaign for Channel 4’s smash hit series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, which they regard as racist.

Hackney’s 800-strong travellers’ community staged a demo in Hackney last month against the billboards they claim stigmatise and stereotype Travellers.

The posters emblazon the slogan, “Bigger Fatter Gypsier,” alongside pictures of children and half-naked girls.

The massively popular show follows Gypsy brides as they plan their wedding day and attracted more than seven million viewers last year.

“We wonder if Channel 4 would have been so ready to use adverts with similarly compromising images and phrases like “Jewisher” or “more Asian” or “Blacker”” asked a collective letter of complaint from the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit (LGTU) which is based in Westgate Street.

The ASA received 316 complaints, but decided the ads did not breach advertising codes.

“While we acknowledged that the ads might not be to everyone’s taste, we noted that both the images and the text reflected the tone and content of the programme they promoted,” said a spokesman.

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“For these reasons, we did not consider the ads were likely to cause serious or widespread offence or be seen as irresponsible or harmful and will not therefore be taking any further action.”

Frieda Schicker from the LGTU said they were “shocked” the ASA considered the complaints as “just a question of taste.”

“The fact of the matter is that Traveller and Gypsy children who are already vulnerable to prejudice and racism have experienced name calling and bullying which has been directly linked to these adverts,” she said.

“A ‘play on words’ of somebody’s ethnic identity is the stuff of racism, and the ASA did not answer the question of whether they would have thought the use of the word Jewisher was OK.

“They also did not address the complaint of the use of images of children to promote the programme which surely transgressed the requirement in the advertising code of practise that, “Care should be taken when featuring or addressing children in marketing communications.””

In a statement, Channel 4 said the advertising campaign builds on the “celebratory nature” of the first series of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.

“The word “Gypsier” refers to the fact that this series offers even greater access and insight to the communities featured, and the terms “Gyspy” or “Gypsier” are not being used in a negative context,” it said.

“Everyone featured in the campaign has seen the posters and is happy with them.

“All images were taken with full consent and all aspects of the poster campaign fully comply with advertising guidelines.”