Ad watchdog dismisses complaints against ‘uncomfortable and unpleasant’ Man proof your car ads

The ad watchdog has dismissed a large number of complaints against MyPlates’ recent ‘Man proof your car campaign‘ which showed one man breaking wind and another picking his nose despite noting the subject matter is “uncomfortable and unpleasant for many viewers”.

Mumbrella understands the Ad Standards Board (ASB) received more than 350 complaints against the campaign, with MyPlates CEO Daryl Head telling Mumbrella he was “upset” that the campaign sparked such controversy.

Complaints to the ASB regarding the ad featuring a man picking his nose included one person who said: “It made me feel ill. What are we going to have to watch next in the interest of retail sales? Someone inserting a tampon?”

Meanwhile complaints against the execution showing one man breaking wind focussed on it being exist, including: “I am disgusted by the man farting. I am offended by this advertisement as it suggests that men are disgusting farting monsters who shouldn’t be trusted in women’s cars. This type humour is both sexist and childish and would not be tolerated by feminist movements nor should it be tolerated by men. Discrimination works both ways.

MyPlates defended the campaign, arguing  the act of picking one’s nose  and passing wind are “not exclusive to men”, adding: “We have deliberately cast actors who are normal, clean-cut, well-groomed respectable gentlemen so as to avoid portraying men as grubby, vile or disgusting stereotypes. The fact is the act of picking one’s nose is perfectly normal (see response to section 2.6), and is embarrassing to all only when caught in the act. Furthermore, the act of picking one’s nose is not exclusive to men.”

Adding it did not think the actions portrayed “vilified men” they said: “We recognise the fact that this commercial may have offended a small number of people relative to the overall audience exposure. We have received a number of communications also commenting on how funny and insightful they find this and the other commercial.

“Having said that, we have taken the proactive step in editing a new version of this commercial which pixelates the image of the secreted mucus, and the act of the male driver of the car wiping said mucus on the interior of the car door.

“After three days of the campaign we have sold a number of these plate designs, and our overall sales rates have lifted. Furthermore, we have already received nearly 1000 requests for the free air freshener that is offered exclusively on the campaign microsite, Overall traffic to this microsite has been very encouraging after just two days of airtime broadcasts.”

In its ruling, the Board considered “that the advertisement is depicting an activity that is, in Australian society, generally unacceptable in public and even though he is depicted doing something in private, the graphic depiction of it is uncomfortable and unpleasant for many viewers”

It also noted “that while the issue of picking ones nose and disposing of snot is not a subject that is generally discussed or considered acceptable in public” and “while many people in the community have found the depiction of a person doing this to be vulgar and in poor taste” the issue “does not breach any specific provision of the Code”.

In relation to the execution featuring the man breaking wind the board considered the ad “is depicting an activity that is a natural body function but one which in Australian society is generally unacceptable in public”.

It added: “The advertisement therefore depicts a man doing something in private (his partner’s car). The Board noted that while the issue of passing wind is not a subject that is generally discussed or considered acceptable in public, the Board agreed that while many people in the community have found the depiction of a person passing wind to be vulgar and in poor taste, this issue does not does not breach any specific provision of the Code.”

In examining the complaints that the ad is discriminatory toward men “and that it is sexist and stereotyping men to have a depiction of a man behaving in a socially unacceptable manner to promote this product”, the board noted “that the product is targeted to women as a humorous way of encouraging women to purchase personalised number plates” and “that there is no suggestion that nose picking is an occurrence exclusive to men”. The board similarly noted that “there is no suggestion that passing wind is an occurrence exclusive to men”.

The Board considered “that, while some people may be offended by the depiction of a man in this way, the advertiser’s use of a man is not a depiction that is demeaning or negative”, thus dismissing the complaints.

Miranda Ward


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