Zoo Weekly censured by ad watchdog for ‘demeaning’ Facebook posts

A posting by Zoo Weekly magazine on its Facebook page that featured a woman’s body cut in half before readers were asked which they preferred has been censured by the advertising watchdog.

left or right zoo weekly

The post – which went up in October – triggered a series of misogynistic comments from readers. Mumbrella raised questions about it at the time of posting.

Zoo comments

However, Zoo’s publisher ACP Magazines tried to claim that the Advertising Standards Board should not adjudicate because its brand page was editorial rather than advertising.

Earlier this week, the Australian Association of National Advertisers issued detailed guidance that brands are responsible for their Facebook pages, including consumer comments, and should check them at least once a day.

It followed previous rulings from the ASB earlier this year making the same point.

A complaint to the ASB about the Zoo posting said: “The image, disturbing nature of having a disembodied woman and the offensive, clearly  sexist and even abusive nature of some responses on a page being used to advertise this product should not be allowed. Both the pictures, the questions that are posed and the responses are regularly demeaning and unacceptable to women. Women are objectified and sexualised.”

But ACP – recently bought by Bauer Media – was unapologetic, arguing that the post was “editorial material” adding: “There are enough other sources of news, sport, fashion, topical conversation etc available for men today to follow, their choice of Zoo magazine is for a purpose – to engage with content that does’t require too much thought.” The ASB ruled:

“The Board first considered the image of the woman cut in half and the question that the advertiser had chosen to accompany the image. The Board considered that the image posted by Zoo with the accompanying question “left or right” objectified women and presented the women in a demeaning manner. The Board also considered that the comments posted underneath the image include language which treats women in a manner which is demeaning and inappropriate. The Board noted that these comments were invited by Zoo magazine by the question of “left or right?” and considered that Zoo magazine has a duty to moderate the responses in keeping with community standards. In the Board‟s view the post by the advertiser of the image and accompanying caption itself discriminated against women and that some of the comments posted underneath this image were also discriminatory towards women.”

The ASB also found against Zoo over a number of other complaints including “an image of a woman‟s bottom wearing white underpants  with the word ‘Nintendo’ written across the back and the question, “What would you call this console?”, an image of a woman taking a photograph of herself wearing a bikini and holding a copy of Zoo magazine, an image of boobs with the corresponding title of ‘boobipedia’, and images of women wearing bikinis inviting users to comment on which bikini looks best.”

After receiving the ruling, ACP told the ASB: “To describe Zoo‟s Facebook page as a ‘marketing communication’ is to misunderstand the nature of modern media organisations and the way in which they use social media to engage with their audience. Zoo‟s Facebook page, like its website and the associated magazine, is a publishing platform comprising of editorial content supported by some advertising content. The content complained of was clearly editorial content and its publication on a Facebook page does not alter that characterisation.”


  1. Rhys Edwards
    29 Nov 12
    2:28 pm

  2. Finally a legal team taking on the ASB about social media.
    +10 points to ACP

  3. dal
    29 Nov 12
    2:57 pm

  4. Its a mens mag!!! Political correctness gone wrong.

  5. SH
    29 Nov 12
    3:00 pm

  6. Sad. Sad that people think this is funny. Sad that this constitutes publishing in 2012. Sad ACP employ people who actually think this constitutes publishing in 2012. Sad comments from readers. Sad magazine.

  7. anonymous
    29 Nov 12
    3:03 pm

  8. If Jeep felt pressured enough to remove their Facebook content featuring a girl in a bikini last week, then how is this excusable? Defending this content by calling it “editorial material” is such a cop out. There should AT LEAST be more moderation of those sorts of comments, they’re absolutely dreadful.

  9. WD
    29 Nov 12
    3:12 pm

  10. @ dal… did you read the reader posts? That’s not political correctness gone wrong, that’s offensive, misogynistic crap from people with the IQ of a pebble.

  11. Dave Reporter
    29 Nov 12
    6:23 pm

  12. Maybe this is the quiz for those who find the Woolie shopping quiz too hard???

  13. AdGrunt
    29 Nov 12
    6:27 pm

  14. What a wonderful victory for the pearl-clutchers of Collective Gout.

    Bauer, as a publisher rather than advertiser, seem to have a very valid legal point. I wonder if they will push this.

    In the mean-time we can all rest safer in our beds knowing that nothing meaningful has been done to address sex equality or women’s rights. However, an abstruse moral claque have validated their right to control and inflict on others.

  15. Shaun
    29 Nov 12
    7:50 pm

  16. It seems a strange irony. I’m guessing (like all magazines) ZOO is beholden to its coverstar (who is always female.) It’s an odd publishing scenario that would say “hey, be in our magazine” but we’ll treat you with utter contempt, totally degrade you and make offensive comments about you. In that it’s a true publishing phenomenon.

  17. AM
    29 Nov 12
    7:59 pm

  18. Why is anyone surprised by the sexist comments?

    This is what happens all over Facebook. It’s what happens in the workplace. It’s what happens on school playgrounds and in homes all over Australia.

    It’s what women have to put up with every day.

    It’s why we can’t have political debate about the issues … just sexist name calling in Federal Parliament.

    Why do magazines publish this crap? It’s because it’s what their readers want and what their staff thinks is funny.

    I’m beginning to wonder if there’s a gentleman left in Australia. Or if VB and Bundy rum have just marinated every Aussie male’s brain.

  19. Ann
    30 Nov 12
    9:09 am

  20. Who created this joke? someone young and naive

  21. Elbogrease
    30 Nov 12
    9:16 am

  22. Nothing wrong with this it is a lads mag, not Womans Weekly. Don’t like the content? move along.

  23. Sparrow's mate
    30 Nov 12
    11:42 am

  24. Tasteless- yes.

    In breach of ASB – NO M8. Better luck next time.

  25. Freelance Fee
    30 Nov 12
    1:11 pm

  26. Here comes the future.The media crossover to so many platforms has raised the need for a new look at where the buck stops. Facebook has seen huge backlashes to Media personalities, which took them, and their clients by surprise. Now, the flack will start flying onto clients as keyboard power grows.

    Advertisers are putting themselves at major risk when they associate with offensive material, and this is very likely if a Facebook or Twitter platform is a chosen advertising medium. More so, if you’re already in a sexed -up Man mag arena.

    Get the the guarantee responses are well-monitored, which are, after all, the very nature of Social Media, or your client’s ‘cool’ factor may end up ‘looking like a’ tool’ factor.

  27. Lou
    2 Dec 12
    1:20 am

  28. Some Assembly Required.

  29. Flip
    2 Dec 12
    1:23 pm

  30. I see nothing wrong with this photo. it is NOT suggestive, it is NOT BLOODY or GORY, there are no open wounds , it does not appear sexual i anyway.
    I see this an a clever and artistic image.

  31. Suzanne Horn
    2 Dec 12
    6:13 pm

  32. You people are a bunch of P.I.G.S…..and I hope when and if you men who thought this was funny all have daughters who fall in love with m en like you who think women are nothing but something to own and control. I hope all of your daughters and mothers are treated the same way you have decided they deserve by the simple fact that they were born women and not men. KARMA is sweet!!!

  33. Axeman
    2 Dec 12
    10:46 pm

  34. Sheesh, come on people, build a bridge will ya?
    Yes it’s bad taste, (but what part of ZOO isn’t?)
    It’s NOT the end of the world!

  35. Mackey Williams
    3 Dec 12
    1:29 am

  36. Does anyone know who the model is? Put those two halves together and you’ve got one gorgeous sexy gal with a killer body.

  37. Kevin L.
    3 Dec 12
    1:52 am

  38. Rule In Life Number #1: Do not give a shit what other people think.

  39. Gwyneth
    3 Dec 12
    9:49 am

  40. C’mon people, really, really dumb fuck neanderthals need entertainment too to arouse their tiny, tiny willies and wrinkle their mono brows and Zoo is it. It is a publication for animals (get it?) and fulfils it’s role.

    And it is not true that the advertisers and media planners who support it are just like the readers. Really it’s not.

  41. Chris
    14 Dec 12
    4:18 pm

  42. The ruling is fine as long as it is applied consistently – I’m sick of seeing (admittedly dodgy) media postings like this one vilified, when the exact same post featuring a man would barely raise an eyelid.

  43. Axeman
    14 Dec 12
    6:06 pm

  44. Too true! NO double standards! Double standards = HYPOCRISY!

  45. Mort
    26 Dec 12
    5:07 am

  46. couldnt care less of the Facebook stunts. She is hot ! Who is she ?