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Ad watchdog dismisses numerous complaints against Mike Tyson Ultra Tune ad

Numerous complaints to the ad watchdog about sexism, sexualisation and the promotion of convicted rapist Mike Tyson in Ultra Tune’s latest ad have been dismissed.

In a detailed response to the complaints, the brand said: “The advertisements do not promote nor endorse any sexual harassment, or assault. He [Tyson] has been punished for his crime committed over 25 years ago in accordance with the law.” 

A majority of the complaints featured in the Advertising Standards Board’s ruling focussed on the inclusion of Tyson, who was convicted of rape in 1992.

“Being rescued by a convicted sex offender is objectionable. It seems to me (and all others who I know who have seen it) to be very out of touch with current attitudes to gender equality, sexual abuse and objectification,” one complaint said.

“Overtly sexist advertisement that has no place being aired on free-to-air tv during daytime hours, in which it can be seen by impressionable children. Sexually objectifies women, depicts them as stupid. Finally, the inclusion of Mike Tyson, a man convicted of sexual assault, is completely tone deaf, and should not be supported by the Australian media, and certainly not seen in a humorous light,” said another.

A further complaint took issue with the ad’s screening time and how many victims of sexual assault may have unwillingly viewed it.

“Mike Tyson is, infamously, a convicted rapist. It is totally inappropriate for him to be featured in advertising of any kind, let alone at midday during a high-profile sporting event where many children are watching, not to mention all the women and girls, one in five of which are victims of sexual assault. To allow Mike Tyson to appear in this frivolous manner, without warning, is irresponsible, careless, and totally diminishes the impact of his crimes and the crimes against women in the audience. The concept of Ultra Tune using Mike Tyson for a gag involving three vulnerable women after a car crash, which according to the narrative of the ad, he essentially caused, is absurd and offensive,” it said.

In response, Ultra Tune said it takes its responsibilities – including the AANA Code of Ethics – very seriously and noted the brand “agrees sexual harassment, assault and rape has no place in our society”.

“However, we note that Mr Tyson served his punishment, publicly acknowledged his deep regret and remorse for that period in his life, and has re-joined society. Since that time, he has rebuilt his career as a celebrity personality.”

It also noted: “Our use of Mr Tyson does not promote his convictions nor condone sexual harassment in any way.”

The advertiser went on to detail its view that the ad could not be found to vilify, humiliate or ridicule women because “the advertisements are clearly designed to be hyper-realisatic and comedic”, noting “a road incident can happen to any person, regardless of gender.”

Ultra Tune also refuted the claim the ad exploits or degrades women, arguing: “At all times the female actors are fully clothed in fancy dress clothing. The fancy dress clothing was used to reinforce the comedic aspect of the advertisement. Their clothing is clearly not the focus of the advertisement.”

Sexy, but not sexualised, rules the ad watchdog

In its determination, the ad watchdog said it was aware of public concern around Tyson, but concluded “advertisers are free to use whoever they wish in advertisements”. In addition, the Board contended not all viewers would recognise Tyson and “be aware of who he was”.

Citing previous rulings against the brand, the Advertising Standards Board said this iteration of the Unexpected Situations campaign, the women are more self-sufficient.

“The Board considered that unlike in case 0020/16 [in which the women become stuck on the tracks in the face of an oncoming train], the women are aware of their situation and they contact Ultra Tune for help. The Board also considered that in the current advertisement the driver swerving was a natural reaction to a situation outside of the women’s control, and was not a suggestion that the women were stupid or unable to drive.”

The Board also didn’t take issue with the women’s attire, saying it is consistent with Hen’s parties or costume parties. It said the women’s appearance was “sexy, [but] their behaviour is not sexualised”.

It also again noted the “hyper-real” nature of the advertisements, which in its view, ensured the community would not take safety pointers from the women’s actions: “The Board considered that the fantasy nature of the advertisement, the likelihood of a tiger appearing in the street, and the fact the vehicle was shown to crash all amounted to an overall impression that would be unlikely to suggest or condone swerving to avoid an animal on the road.”

The Board thus dismissed all the complaints against Ultra Tune’s ad.

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