2019 report finds a third of advertising complaints were about issues not covered by watchdog

A third of complaints made to industry watchdog Ad Standards in 2019 were about issues that are not covered by the AANA Code of Ethics.

In its annual Review of Operations report, Ad Standards said these complaints often related to “uncomfortable scenes in advertisements” and came in response to ads which “push the boundaries on social issues”.

Libra’s #BloodNormal campaign was the target of a large proportion of these complaints, after some viewers took issue with the period-related visuals being “gross, embarrassing, or uncomfortable” to watch.

Sportsbet’s campaign that featured former NRL player, Todd Carney, was also named as the recipient of many complaints that fell under the ‘other’ category.

Libra’s #BloodNormal was the most complained about ad of 2019. Carney’s ad for Sportsbet came second on the list.

A third of complaints received were not issues covered by the code (Source: Ad Standards)

16.37% of complaints received in 2019 were concerned with representations of sex, sexuality and nudity in advertising. This was down from 36.39% in 2018.

Sex, sexuality and nudity was followed by depictions of violence, attracting 15.78% of complaints, and also down from the previous year’s figure of 26.58%.

The section of the code which attracted the least complaints was whether or not advertising is clearly distinguishable, with just 0.14%. Ad Standards CEO, Fiona Jolly, said this percentage indicates a low level of community concern about this issue, backed by the organisation’s research into social media and online content which “showed that there is actually a high level of consumer awareness of what is advertising on the internet”.

Overall, there was a 21.7% decrease in complaints received from 2018. 5,241 complaints were made, with Ad Standards noting this is “a return to more usual levels after two exceptionally high years”. The majority of ads complained about appeared on free-to-air TV.

The breakdown of complainants (Source: Ad Standards)

66.02% of complaints were made by women and 34.90% of complaints were made by people between 40 and 54 years of age. People aged 55 to 65 years of age accounted for 21.39% of complaints. Ad Standards noted that these figures were on par with the data that has been collated each year since 2008.

In her statement, Jolly also thanked Federal, State and Territory governments for their assistance in obtaining compliance with motor vehicle advertising, a reference to rental company Wicked Campers’ continuous breaches of the AANA Code due to the language used on its vehicles.

“We were pleased that in late July 2019 all jurisdictions agreed to implement consistent legislation to enable Ad Standards decisions for motor vehicle advertising to be effectively implemented,” Jolly said.

“Our preference as a self-regulation body is of course to secure compliance directly with the advertiser, however we are pleased that the regulations implemented will ensure that the Community Panel’s decisions are consistently applied across Australia.”


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