Three New Zealanders die aping commercial

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AUCKLAND -- A controversial fruit juice advertisement has been pulled from national TV after three people leapt to their deaths in separate incidents since Christmas while trying to mimic the stunt featuring two prominent local soccer heroes.

The 90-sec spot showed the two athletes apparently jumping from a 100-foot waterfall at Hunua Falls in pursuit of a can of Fresh- Up fruit drink. The ad, for Frucor Beverages, a New Zealand Apple and Pear Board marketing company, was produced by Auckland-based Colenso, a wholly owned subsidiary of Clemenger BBDO, Melbourne.

In spite of the Hunua Falls' deadly reputation--13 people have jumped to their deaths there in the past few years--the NZ Advertising Standards Council approved the commercial. A spokesman for the Board said a decision about whether to rescreen the ad would be made in February.

The stunt was put together by trick editing, with the two players actually only jumping a few feet. Stuntmen were shown jumping a greater distance into the water. In the past week, a 22-year-old man was killed while jumping from the same Hunua Falls. Two other men, aged 39 and 28, were killed while jumping from other North Island falls.

Last year in India, a seven-year-old boy died after a spot was aired by Coca-Cola India for its Thums Up cola. India's Federation of Consumer Organizations claimed that the boy, who jumped off his apartment balcony, was influenced by a commercial showing bungee jumping off a cliff.

Copyright January 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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