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A television advertisement which targets Maori fathers who drive stoned with their children in the car has been slammed for negatively stereotyping and stigmatising Maori.
Steve Elers, who worked as a police crash investigator in Western Australia and is at AUT University researching TV ads targeting Maori, says the Transport Agency's Blazed commercial is based on poor-quality research and will likely do more harm than good.
Directed by Taika Waititi, the acclaimed director of Boy, the ad features three Maori children waiting in a car talking about how well their fathers drive after smoking cannabis.
Mr Elers took issue with an explanation from NZTA and ad agency Clemenger BBDO that the idea for the commercial came from an insight shared by Maori dads that they don't like smoking weed around their children yet they have no problem driving with them after a session.
"That is explicitly stating that Maori dads smoke weed and then go drive their kids," he said. "It is being singled out that that is the Maori norm, that's how Maori are."
NZTA spokesman Andy Knackstedt denied the ad suggested Maori were more likely to drug-drive than other ethnicities.
It was the third instalment of a series which attempted to spread the message about the dangers of drug-driving throughout the community.
The previous ad, called Expert Opinions, featured dairy owners, fish and chip shop workers and a couple who owned a bakery talking about their experiences dealing with stoned people. That ad, which targeted drivers in their 30s and 40s, had attracted complaints because it had featured all Pakeha drivers.
"Both ads are sending the same message to different parts of the same very broad audience," Mr Knackstedt said.
"Our research clearly showed that in order to reach Maori with a message that would be seen as credible, that message would have to come from a credible source via a trusted medium and in an authentic way."
- Steve Deane of the New Zealand Herald