The most complained about ads of 2012

In this roundup from the Encore and Mumbrella Annual, we take a look at the seven most complained about ads from the last 12 months.

1. Johnson & Johnson ‘Vagina’

No blue liquid and ludicrous euphemisms in this tampon ad. Just the word vagina. Oh, and discharge. One complaint to the Ad Standards Board read: “I find it highly disgusting that they mention any fact at all about the discharge between periods on national television.” The only ad to dare to use the V word in recent history was the only one this year to beat 100 complaints to the ad watchdog. Sense prevailed and the complaints were dismissed.

2. Red Bull ‘Jesus’

Jesus walked on water. God’s work? A miracle? Or because Red Bull gave him wings? Didn’t go down well with Christians, this. But the ad was allowed to stand.

3. Libra Tampons ‘Drag Queen’

An ad by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne featuring a woman engaged in a tit-for-tat with a drag queen was voluntarily pulled by Libra after outrage from the transgender community.

4. New Idea Magazine ‘Amish’

An ad for New Idea portrays the magazine as a forbidden pleasure among the Amish community, apparently causing one woman to reveal her leg.

5. Lynx ‘Balls’

The only ad in this list to get banned (complaints against a shorter, edited version were dismissed). Ageism is what did it. At the end of the TV show-style ad hosted by Sophie Monk, an elderly man produced two deflated medicine balls and asked: “Can you help me with these saggy old balls? Nobody’s played with them for years.”

6. Pilot Pen ‘Leak’

A spelling mistake – ‘leek’ is spelt ‘leak’ – in a handwritten recipe handed down through the generations causes a man to urinate in his soup.

7. Kimberly-Clark ‘Puppy’

This ad featured a labrador puppy sniffing peoples’ behinds, introducing the idea Australians aren’t good at wiping their bums.


mumbrella annual 2012


  1. Steven
    17 Dec 12
    8:31 pm

  2. People need to get a sense of humour, we pride ourselves as aussies as being “a laid back bunch” yet people can’t seem to have a laugh at what are some of the funniest adverts this year, particularly the Lynx balls ad…just so well done!

  3. Ann
    17 Dec 12
    8:52 pm

  4. J&J have reached new depths with that ad. Confronting to everyone

  5. tvguide
    18 Dec 12
    2:02 pm

  6. I would say J&J had reached new heights with that ad – really Ann – grow up

    18 Dec 12
    3:09 pm

  8. Ann, your a hater who loves to hate.

    These ads are seen by millions and a handful of people complain. And they call the English whingers.

    P.S i also want some clean balls.

  9. Mike
    18 Dec 12
    3:25 pm

  10. Irrespective of people’s taste or lack thereof, blurting out “vagina”, “discharge” and lame jokes about “balls” reflect desperation and creative emptiness in concept and writing.
    “Hey – let’s shock people” is the writer’s point of last resort, and no return.

    Agencies really don’t give a shit about who they call “creative director” in 2012, and it shows.

  11. TheDeb
    18 Dec 12
    5:49 pm

  12. Does anyone else find it strangely ironic that the New Idea Magazine ad had complaints considering the Amish community aren’t supposed to watch TV or use the internet.

  13. JosieK
    19 Dec 12
    11:51 am

  14. I don’t believe that either vagina or discharge were blurted out, Mike, but discussed as a natural part of life. As they should be.

  15. The V word
    19 Dec 12
    2:56 pm

  16. How irresponsible of an ad to mention a natural bodily function, and use the actual word for a body part. Outrageous.