Opinion

25 mad complaints to the ad standards board

There’s an amusing weekly feature in the UK gossip email Holy Moly called Duty Log Mental.

It covers complaints to TV networks about their programmes from less balanced members of society.

This week I’ve been catching up on Ad Standards Board rulings. Reading the complaints, I can’t help but think of Duty Log Mental.

I’ve dipped into rulings from just the last couple of months to give you a sense of what the ASB has to cope with. It seems that the price of self-regulation is indeed having to deal with the public at its most unbalanced. When you read them, it may not surprise you to note that all of the complaints below were dismissed.

They range from  somebody who saw a spider in an online ad and missed appointments  because they had been crying, to Pepsi Max “raping societies values”, to M&M cartoon characters bullying each other, to ANZ’s Barbara The Bank Manager being a redhead.

Admittedly though, there does appear to be a correlation between bad ads and bonkers complaints (many of these are previous Mumbo Report turkeys), but that’s another matter all together.

Of course, there’s a serious point to this – each of these complaints – and this is only a small selection – requires an investigation by the ASB, which is industry funded. And somebody reasonably senior at the advertiser, or in many cases the agency, has to put together a detailed response which must suck up hours of time.

The diplomatic language in the determinations by the ASB deserves much credit.

Tim Burrowes

1. BEER KARMA Lion Nathan

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

The Red Ball TVC depicts two men sitting in a pub drinking West End Draught beer stating a Victorian “cops it” for each one they drink. This „Beer Karma‟ campaign taps into the South Australian/Victorian rivalry. They chuckle when a large ball of red wool, a parody of Tourism Victoria‟s advertisement, lands in the crowd which they justify because of the fact that “they did nick the grand prix”.

THE COMPLAINT

I believe the ad incites violence against Victorians and at the very least suggests that it is OK for Victorians to “cop it”.

THE DETERMINATION

The Board noted that although knocked over, there is no depiction of anyone being hurt by the giant ball of wool. The Board considered that this type of rivalry between States is widely accepted in the community and unlikely that the actions in this advertisement would be viewed as violence or taken seriously by the majority of the community.

2. NRMA

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

In the Advertisement, a solid blue tile is imprinted with the question “Don’t like nasty surprises?” in white font. The tile then flips over to expose a spider which moves from the right of the screen to the left before being replaced with a final blue tile comprising the words “Fix your Car Insurance price for 2 years”

THE COMPLAINT

I have an acute fear of spiders and take lots of measures in my life to avoid contact with them – ask my family!

Today in the course of my routine I went to the White Pages website where I have been on many previous occasions only to be terrified enough to drop my computer/laptop when the image of a huge spider popped up on the right hand side of the window.

It appeared just above my right hand as I was typing and my fear is such that I reacted instantly and retreated! It has taken me the best part of an hour to control myself I have missed appointments and am now looking a lot worse for wear as one does after crying for that long

I will not be using any websites with advertising whilever I know this ad is still in existence.

THE DETERMINATION

Acknowledging that advertisers cannot reasonably be expected to remove all content that might trigger individual phobias, the Board determined that in this instance, the advertisement did not depict any material that was in breach of prevailing community standards

3. M&Ms

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

In this television advertisement M&M characters are sitting around a campfire toasting marshmallows and playing a game of “strip” spin the bottle. Red spins the bottle which points at the naked or Bare M&M (no candy shell) who didn’t want his dignity taken away, but being Red’s fall guy, has his marshmallow taken away.

THE COMPLAINT

The advertisement shows children that bullying is okay and taking your dignity away is also okay. M&M’s is most the influential product on the market and needs to insure the message that children receive is positive and assisting in their growth and development. There is already too much bullying going on in the school yards already. When marketing a product the message should be about development of our children not showing them that the red M&M can dominate the rest of the group and do what he likes and the others just laugh.

THE DETERMINATION

The Board considered that this advertisement did not give a strong suggestion of bullying or of inappropriate or unsociable behaviour. The Board considered that the animated context of this particular advertisement, its context as part of a series of advertisements featuring these two characters, and the depiction of confectionery rather than people, contributed to the overarching sentiment of the advertisement being humorous rather than bullying.

4. InsuranceLine

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

The advertisement shows 4 young children participating in a Q&A session with responses reflecting their child-like views on ‘where does money come from’. Two boys say ‘they make it out of paper’ and ‘the workers’. The girl in the pink outfit comments ‘if I had a money tree in my backyard I would pick money so I could get anything”. The Presenter refers to a life insurance plan that may offer financial protection should the main income earner pass away. The girl in the closing scene says ‘me and dad we love each other and are always doing stuff together’.

THE COMPLAINT

I felt like they were promoting a boy to work and a girl to prostitute herself (not much difference if she has a boyfriend or is on the street).

I think it goes against all ideals of female equality.

THE DETERMINATION

The Board noted that the young girl seated on a couch in pink outfit commented ‘if I had a money tree in my backyard I would pick money so I could get anything” and the girl in closing scene says ‘me and dad we love each other and are always doing stuff together’. The Board considered that neither of the comments suggested that a female has less equality, promotes or refers to prostitution and considered that the complainant may have misheard or misinterpreted the girl’s comment.

5.  Real Life Insurance

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

Glen & Shayne in talk back show relating to family life cover for real peace of mind if one or both parents died unexpectedly

THE COMPLAINT

Is that not genger discrimination? WHY does the man have to pay more? These ads are aimed at men mainly so that when the men dies his wife and kids still get money.” BUT: It is just as expensive for a single father to raise kids as it is for a single mother!

Consequently the man always pays for his kids more and sees them less! WHY? It is sexism actually (as the word is defined in the dictionary not in baised minds!).”

THE DETERMINATION

The Board considered the advertisement presented factual information in the context of the product.

6. National Australia Bank

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

This TV advertisement depicts children wearing American Indian outfits playing in a garden. A boy is seen crying when a blonde girls runs off with his quiver of arrows with voiceover: “give and take doesn’t necessarily come naturally”

THE COMPLAINT

There is an almost direct reference to the very racist term “Indian Giver”. Just because you use cute kids in a commercial and just because the tragedy that happened to the American Indians did not happen in Australia it is still completely inappropriate to refer to a stereotypical view of a race of people. It’s completely offencive. It is racist. In America it would never have been screened.

THE DETERMINATION

The Board considered that the concept is of sharing and no reference to or suggestion of being an ‘Indian giver’.

7. McDonald’s

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

A family is eating McDonald’s at the dinner table. “Mum” tells “Dad” that she ran into their old school friend, Simon, earlier that day, and how Simon has let himself go a bit with ‘a little less hair’ and ‘a bit more around the middle’. In reality “Mum” is still very impressed with the fit, handsome Simon in his suit. The jealous “Dad” describes his rival as “fat boy Simon”, but is actually relieved that his wife has made the right choice by choosing him.

THE COMPLAINT

The derogatory underpinnings conveyed in the attitude and words communicated in the advertisment is highly discriminatory.

Surely McDonalds cannot expect to target already vulnerable persons when the Government and other aspects of society are trying so hard to address this crippling disease. Some people are for one reason or another no doubt severely handicapped and marginalised by obesity as perhaps the rest of us cannot know. That powerbrokers think they can ridicule and target such person thus crippling their very psyches and procuring the rest of us to wantonly abuse fat people is horrific.

I for one will never shop at MacDonald’s and I will make sure that others do not respond favoruably to such an abusive advertisement.

I cannot imagine how degraded and miserable some people are feeling. This is the second time I have seen this assault.

THE DETERMINATION

Neither “Dad” nor “Simon” were depicted as overweight, and considered the complainant may have misunderstood the irony in the advertisement as there was no clear connection to this reference in the advertisement.

8. St George

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

A big rig truck is driving along a highway in rural Australia and puts on the brakes to let a small echidna cross the road. End caption: “St George Big enough, Small enough?

THE COMPLAINT

The advertisements encourage road users to contravene road traffic Acts and Regulations.

I was recently involved in an incident where a female driver stopped in the middle of the Princes Highway just north of Bega to allow an echidna to cross the highway.

THE DETERMINATION

The advertisement did not condone, promote or encourage unsafe driving.

9.  Sunbeam

This advertisement depicts people, including children, walking around holding the cords of floating Sunbeam appliances set to the tune “you are my sunshine” but “shine” is replaced by the word “sunbeam”.

THE COMPLAINT

I am concerned that children viewing this ad would be attracted by the balloon-like quality of the products displayed when people hold their power cables.

I believe that viewing this ad could inadvertently encourage young children in particular to grab onto power cables. Kettles, toasters, irons and other common and potentially dangerous or deadly household appliances are depicted.

THE DETERMINATION

The Board noted the depiction of household items as balloons that fly was fanciful and unrealistic and not intended to be taken literally. The Board also noted that no appliances were plugged in and considered that this depiction is unlikely to condone or encourage similar behaviour by children.

10. Foxtel

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

A man is sat watching sport on TV when his daughter stands in front of him, places her stereo on the floor, says “Dad, check this out” then turns on the stereo and launches into a dance routine. Dad pauses the TV and watches her performance, and when she is finished he claps then resumes watching the sport. The girl then starts playing the music again and the voiceover says “Life doesn’t stop for TV. But with FoxTel IQ you can pause and rewind so you don’t miss a thing.”

THE COMPLAINT

The dance alone without any comment is not the dance of any innocent child.

I have seen it on Chanel 9 I do hope for the sake of child protection you can act.

THE DETERMINATION

The Board considered the depiction of a daughter interrupting her father, to perform her dance routine whilst he was engrossed in sport on television, would be understood by most members of the community as an everyday occurrence in many living rooms.

11 Toyota


DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

A car freighter truck is driving along a remote country road, loaded up with Toyota Corollas. Out in the distance, the driver notices something on the road: a puppy. The driver gets out and walks towards the puppy. Then a person in camouflage leaps up and sounds a horn. This causes many different people, in various forms of camouflage to jump out and they all run towards the Corollas.

The voice over says “some people would do almost anything to get their hands on the new look Corolla hatch”. The Corollas are then shown being driven off,

THE COMPLAINT

The catch phrase of “some people will do anything for a Toyota” ending the advertisement and the depiction of people stealing cars from the back of a lorry may encourage some people especially younger people to think that if they cannot afford a car (or anything else for that matter) it is alright to steal the item of your desire without consequence

THE DETERMINATION

The Board considered that the advertisement is an exaggerated and unrealistic depiction of the lengths that some people will go to to obtain the advertised product.

12 ANZ

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

A female customer goes in to “A Bank” to discuss her credit card reward system. Bank employee “Barbara” is dismissive of the customer’s complaint that she has not accumulated enough points to be entitled to any rewards

THE COMPLAINT

The advertisement patently slurs red-haired persons as obnoxious and inferior.

If any other ethnic group was identified thus you would promptly shrink from allowing the advertisement and brand the producer.

Such are your values that you approved it for publication.

DETERMINATION:

The exaggerated depiction of a person providing bad service made it likely that most people in the community would not link this behaviour to people with the physical characteristic of red hair generally.

13 Transperth WA

The advertisement depicts various cars caught in a traffic jam on the freeway. The cars then merge and transform into a robot (likened to a transformer). The voiceover talks about decreasing the levels of CO2. The robot then transforms into a train, leaving less cars on the freeway.

THE COMPLAINT

This ad is obviously targeted at children by the use of animation and toys and describes how driving cars releases “poisonous CO2” into the atmosphere. This clearly has the potential to distress children who are being told that they are complicit in “poisoning” the atmosphere by being driven in motor vehicles. CO2 is neither a poison nor poisonous and I urge you to have this offensive and damaging language removed from this ad particularly on television. Youth suicide rates are already rising and as children learn at school that they also breathe out CO2 with every breath the potential distress to these children is obvious. Please let me know what sort of time frame is expected for this removal as I am willing to pursue other avenues to expedite this matter if necessary. For your information I hold an Honours degree in Psychology so understand how these issues affect children particularly those with psychological vulnerabilities.

THE DETERMINATION

The Board considered that this advertisement was clearly aimed at car drivers and not children and considered the “Transformer” depicted in the advertisement was a metaphor relating to „changes in lifestyle‟

14 Philadelphia Cream

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

The Philadelphia Cream for Cooking television commercial features a woman describing the new Philadelphia product, as two men are cooking in the background. The woman exits the kitchen arm in arm with the male cooks in their underwear. She smacks one on the backside with end caption:” Less Fat, Less naughty, Heavenly”

THE COMPLAINT

I object because the advertisement objectifies the two men including at the end when the woman sexually assaults one of the men by smacking on the buttocks. I think the ad encourages sexual abuse and is highly inappropriate especially as it is shown throughout the time slots kids watch TV.

THE DETERMINATION:

The parody and humour in the advertisement provided a context for the woman’s behaviour and does not suggest that such actions are attributable to all women.

15. Penrite Oil

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

The advertisement starts with a priest who has a very thick Irish accent asking “who presents this baby for baptism?”, The priest then pronounces the baby’s name which includes a number of middle names including “Penrite”. The priest finishes and we hear the Penrite slogan “Penrite: a better class of oil for a better class of mechanic”.

THE COMPLAINT

The ad in an effort so sink the message in is also using the christening of the baby to add to the idea that the baby is a “better class of baby” not only by having the name Penrite but by being christened and being a Christian.

And of course this is the horribly offending bit. By implying that a baby will be a “better class of person” because it is a Christian this also implies that people of other religious affiliations (or no religious affiliations at all) are a “lower class of person”. That is completely unacceptable and it must be stopped.

THE DETERMINATION

The Board listened to the advertisement and noted the advertiser’s response that „better class‟ refers to the product and not the baby depicted in the christening

16. McCain Foods

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

A male personal trainer encourages a woman to make healthy lifestyle choices throughout her day ‘take the bike, take the stairs and take a look in the freezer’ in which she finds a healthy choice McCain meal.

THE COMPLAINT

Does anyone else besides me feel degraded controlled and totally belittled by that smiling male as he exhibits total control over this complying beautiful lady

Please we have the message. We should all let males have total contraol of our lives. I am 74 years of age and hope that next generation takes a stand for their rights

THE DETERMINATION

The Board considered that the male depicted in the advertisement was clearly depicted in a personal trainer or fitness role. The Board considered that the advertisement indicated that the type of things that the imaginary trainer was saying to the woman are the type of things that he probably says to her at her training session.

17. Unilever Lynx Twist

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

The advertisement tells the story of a man who is going out with a young woman. At the beginning of the advertisement the young man sprays his body with Lynx Twist body spray (the fragrance that changes). Later the young man and woman are shown in a cafe style environment where the woman appears bored and disinterested. When the woman looks away a robot cuts his hair, shaves his face and dresses him. The woman then smiles at the man in an approving manner.

THE COMPLAINT

It ends with the catchphrase ‘women get bored easily’. Apart from the overt implication that a woman will sleep with a man depending only on his appearance (and is therefore shallow) in the 30-second or so time slot of the ad the woman ‘gets bored’ four times. This implies that women are frivolous that they have the attention span of children and is patronising and patriarchal.

I object to this ad as it depicts women as whimsical irrational and in general promiscuous – I don’t think that saying women change their mind alot is representative of women today or in fact even mildly true…. Not to mention not in the slightest funny.

THE DETERMINATION

The Board considered that the advertisement portrays women as getting bored easily and that this is not

a negative connotation in the advertisement as it is for the man to make himself more interesting to keep her attention.

18 Alfa Romeo

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

This TV advertisement by Ateco Automotive Pty Ltd for the new MiTo Alpha Romeo (overseas model was shown) opens with text “You were born screaming. What Happened”? below image of distressed baby crying. The next sound is of a revving car and fast-paced guitar music with image of red car travelling through rocky, mountainous terrain which sprayed dirt as it skidded around a corner and then drove into a tunnel.

THE COMPLAINT

Red is a masculine colour and represents heat energy and aggression. This colour stands out vividly on a black and white background and the fast rock much and engine revving sounds can only be to underline that aggressiveness and energy already incited by the visual imagery. This is an advertisement designed to inflame and incite – or in modern parlanace ‘to wind up’.

THE DETERMINATION

The Board considered that the depiction of a car of a particular colour did not, of itself, suggest unsafe driving. In considering the overall impression that a consumer would take from this advertisement, the Board observed the visual imagery and scale of the red vehicle, within the context of the background scenery and the language used. The Board carefully considered the entire advertisement including the music and engine noises. The Board considered that the overall impression of the advertisement is of a powerful vehicle but that the depictions in the advertisement do not amount to a suggestion of unsafe driving.

19 Boost Juice Bars Australia

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

Fruit puppets, Ron Banana and Mary Mango, host a mock fruit themed entertainment program called Inside Juice promoting Boost Juice’s 10th birthday and 10 fruit holidays competition. Tangarina Jollie, in a bikini with exaggerated breasts, saunters through a heap of pineapples as “sweet” in male voices is heard and tagline by Ron Banana to Mary Mango “how about you and me get a little bit fruity” to which she replies “in your dreams Ron”.

THE COMPLAINT

I found it disappointing that towards the end of the ad the news anchorman sexually propositions the news anchorwoman. There is much work being done in the community to eliminate that sexual harassment in the workplace.

Some might say that a sense of humour is required. The news is – sexual harassment in not funny.

THE DETERMINATION

It’s animated fruit is a stereotypical depiction of news anchors. The sexual proposition at the end is also a stereotypical representation and in the context of animated fruit is seen as ridiculous behavior and not as condoning inappropriate sexual behavior in the work place.

20. Trading Post


DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

The advertisement opens with a man saying “I know this sounds crazy but have you ever seen talking animals” when he took a goat and frog to the vet. The vet thinks the man needs a psychiatric clinic, not a vet, and so hands him a business card with contact details for a psychiatrist.

THE COMPLAINT

A sample of comments which the complainant/s made regarding this advertisement included the following:

I found this ad to be highly offensive and poor taste. It directly discriminates against people with mental health disabilities.

Some people throughout Australia have mental health difficulties which can include seeing and hearing things that dont exist in reality. This ad makes a mental health disability into a complete utter joke.

THE DETERMINATION

the intent is to be light-hearted by featuring talking animals and that there is no intention to stigmatise mental health issues. The Board considered that the advertisement was not aimed at a particular segment of the community or people with mental health issues because the advertisement clearly features animals talking when the vet left the room and is reminiscent of many movies where similar things happen and only the main character can hear or see the animals doing particular things.

21. The Mercury

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

(Note: this is a parody of the ad only. We were unable to find the original on video sharing sites.)

The TV advertisement opens with a man reading “The Mercury” newspaper in a library. When a female climbs on a step ladder she notices the man look up from the paper and smile. She lets down her hair, leans over in her low cut dress to write her mobile number on his newspaper, which he then uses to swipe her.

THE COMPLAINT

In this ad the male is portrayed as being physically aggressive and the female is being treated with disrespect. I understand that this ad is meant to be humerous and is the last of a mostly amusing series of Mercury ads but I feel this one over steps the line of what is acceptable and sends a negative message.

THE DETERMINATION

The Board considered that this was depicted in a playful situation and that the women is clearly depicted unharmed.

22. Nature’s Organics


DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

The TV advertisement shows animated aquatic animals such as a starfish, stingray, duck, squid, crab and octopus being used as cleaning products. End image ‘Stop torturing our aquatic life.

THE COMPLAINT

I felt physically ill viewing this advert. My young daughter was in hysterics we’re still trying to calm her down. I don’t care that the animals where cgi. this ad is just plain sick. We where loyal brand supporters but no more. the very thought of seeing a that logo again brings to mind the disturbing cruelty that this advert portrays.

THE DETERMINATION

the images are computer generated images (with the exception of the duck which was accompanied by an animal handler and not harmed) and that they are quite realistic in appearance. The Board considered that the message of the advertisement – to use an environmentally friendly product, was relevant to the images used in the advertisement.

23. MBF

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

The online banner opens on a frame where a man appears nude with his private parts covered by his hands. Copy “Cover yourself from just $1.79 a day” animates on. The man stays nude briefly, before clothes animate on to him whilst the copy stays the same.

THE COMPLAINT

The man involved in this online advertisement is completely nude except for his strategically placed hands. It is highly offensive especially for my children and wife.

This is pornography on the front page of a web site that I and my children had no choice but to see.

THE DETERMINATION

The Board agreed that most people in the community would appreciate that the advertisement was meant to be humorous with the play on words around “cover yourself‟ and would not be considered overtly sexualised or offensive.

24. Transport Accident Commission

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

Billboards featuring a male motorcyclist with injuries to his legs and body. Includes text/taglines such as “Motorcyclists have 38 times the risk of serious injury”

THE COMPLAINT

I suffer from a common medical condition that means I suffer adverse effects from viewing graphic images incuding mild weakness sweating and nausea. However when combined with circumstances such as fatigue heat or cold I have experienced fainting and in fact the Red Cross refuse to allow me to give blood. This is not in normal circumstances a problem but the graphic images do trigger these eposides.

I had one unfortunate event where I was riding my motorcycle and viewed one of these billboards of a motorcycle rider with a bloodied leg. It triggered an episode of dizziness and I desperately felt the urge to lie down. However the peak hour traffic on the eastern freeway was very heavy and I could not find a place to safely pull over. I had no choice to keep riding and after some minutes the episode passed

THE DETERMINATION:

The Board considered that although some members of the public, including the complainant, will find the advertisement confronting, they determined that the violence depicted in the advertisement was relevant to the important public health and safety message that the advertisement is attempting to convey

25. Pepsi Max


DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

This “Octopus” advertisement opens on a beach with a man trying or arrange a date with the female behind the bar when calls for help a heard in the background. The man runs into the water to save a swimmer being attacked by an octopus. The man stabs the octopus with a beach umbrella and then escorts the victim from the water. The female behind the bar is very impressed by this heroism and accepts an invitation for a date that night. The young man is then seen thanking his friends, including the fake octopus, because „she took the bait‟and they continue to celebrate by drinking Pepsi Max opened by the fake octopus tentacle.

THE COMPLAINT

Having men in group forum ganging up together to pack hunt females under false pretenses to use them for their own sexual or egotistical gratification is disgusting! This ad is clearly targeted at young men and making it “cool” to lie and decieve women for sexual purposes. I have a young daughter and the blatant attempts to create a culture where women are used by men by such a high profile and influencial brand as pepsi is a national disgrace. As if alcohol doesn’t cause enough problems now softdrink is raping societies values. Shame on them!!!

THE DETERMINATION

The Board considered that the advertisement is a lighthearted and comical representation of an unlikely and exaggerated situation.

Advertiser: St George Group

DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT

A big rig truck is driving along a highway in rural Australia and puts on the brakes to let a small echidna cross the road. End caption: “St George Big enough, Small enough?

THE COMPLAINT

The advertisements encourage road users to contravene road traffic Acts and Regulations.

I was recently involved in an incident where a female driver stopped in the middle of the Princes Highway just north of Bega to allow an echidna to cross the highway.

THE DETERMINATION

The advertisement did not condone, promote or encourage unsafe driving.

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