Page last updated at 13:06 GMT, Monday, 3 November 2008

'Grotesque' NZ pizza ads dropped

Screen grab from Hell Pizza's website
The pizza firm has made headlines before for its controversial adverts

A New Zealand pizza chain has withdrawn a Halloween promotion that showed skeleton animations of three deceased celebrities dancing on graves.

Hell Pizza's advert showed animations of Sir Edmund Hillary, actor Heath Ledger and the Queen Mother dancing to Michael Jackson's song Thriller.

The family of Mount Everest conqueror Sir Edmund, who died in January, said the ad was in "extremely poor taste".

Hell's Pizza apologised and said it did not mean to cause offence.

I think it's disturbing
Peter Hillary

"Clearly he's revered in New Zealand and we all love him," spokesman Glenn Corbett said.

"The idea of Sir Ed being there was intended to be a light-hearted remembrance."

The firm is no stranger to controversy. Last year, it showed Hitler in a Nazi salute with a pizza in his hand. Previously, it has distributed condoms alongside its "Lust" pizza.

The firm's marketing director Rachael Allison told New Zealand media that the latest animation was part of an e-mail campaign targeting existing customers.

'Not funny'

Around 5,000 people saw the advert before it fell into the hands of the media.

She said Hell Pizza was known for its controversial advertising and customers loved it. But she accepted it is not to everyone's taste.

"Interpretation of this is always up to individuals and we are always mindful of that and always keep an eye on our tone of voice and try to keep on top of that," she said.

Peter Hillary said the death of his father, who reached the summit of Everest in 1953, was still "pretty raw" and the advert was not funny.

"I think it's disturbing... a little grotesque", he told New Zealand's Dominion Post.

There has been no reaction from the family of Australian actor Heath Ledger, who also died in January, or the Royal Family, who buried the Queen Mother in 2002.

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