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Ad watchdog clears ‘offensive’ Meat & Livestock Australia ad of being ‘racist’ and ‘homophobic’

The advertising watchdog has cleared Meat & Livestock Australia’s political musical Summer Lamb campaign of vilifying a person or being discriminatory.

MLA’s Summer Lamb campaign, which turned the wars between Australia’s left and right into a ‘satirical’ West Side Story-style musical, was labelled in a complaint as “offensive”, “outdated, racist” and “homophobic”.

“This ad is offensive to literally anyone who has ever held any point of view ever. It’s humour is outdated, racist, homophobic – I could go on. It seems to think it’s satire but it’s just genuinely offensive. In such a climate as the one we have now poking fun at political correctness is absolutely so on the nose I can’t believe it was allowed at all,” a complaint posted to Ad Standards said.

Meat & Livestock Australia said the complaints should be dismissed, arguing the ad is “a satirical take on the Broadway classic, West Side Story”.

“The overriding message of the advertisement is one of inclusiveness, regardless of political belief or any other social values.

“There is nothing in the advertisement that reveals inequity, bigotry, intolerance towards or unfair treatment of any such group,” the advertiser said in response to the complaint.

The Ad Standards panel said there wasn’t anything in the ad which referred to a particular race or ethnicity.

“At no point was any one person in the advertisement singled out or treated in a manner which was discriminatory or vilifying on the basis of race or ethnicity,” the panel said.

Dismissing the complaint and clearing the ad, the Ad Standards panel agreed the ad treated both groups equally and didn’t discriminate against any particular person or group.

The brand frequently finds itself responding to ad complaints.

Last year’s religious-themed backyard barbecue campaign was initially cleared by the watchdog, despite receiving over 200 complaints and Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish leaders all calling for the ad to be banned. The initial decision was undone by an independent reviewer, however, who found the ad gave “inadequate consideration to how seriously some Australians take their religious views”. The independent review said the Ads Standards Board’s initial decision had “substantial flaws”.

MLA’s 2016 spring campaign was also accused of being racist towards white people, while its Australia Day campaign from the same year was given the all-clear, despite drawing more than 600 complaints. The scene in question showed commandos smashing their way into a vegan’s home before using a flamethrower to torch his furniture.

All of the controversial campaigns were created by The Monkeys.

Late last year MLA’s group marketing manager Andew Howie jumped ship and joined Westpac as head of advertising.

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