Advertiser brands complainant ‘oxygen thief’ as ad watchdog clamps down on health and safety


An angry small business owner has described a complainant as an “oxygen thief” and labelled the Ad Standards Board “time wasters” after it upheld a complaint against an ad showing two children playing in a large ice box.

Smirkey’s Sports was one of three companies to be on the receiving end of health and safety concerns from the the ASB in its latest round of rulings, while a fourth fell foul for featuring a swear word on an outdoor sign.

Fernwood Fitness Centre was reprimanded after its TV ad depicted women undertaking various outdoor activities, including a scene in which two women ride on a bicycle without safety helmets.

A complaint against the ad drew attention to state laws around the need for wearing a safety helmet, which Fernwood argued in its response was a scene “filmed on private property, not on the road”.

Ad courtesy of Ebiquity

“Being just a three second segment in a 30 second commercial, the bike riding is not a major focus. The TVC is not aimed at children and is not shown in a time slot indicative of children’s viewing times,” the advertiser concluded.

However it was the board’s view that community standards “are very clear on the issue of health and safety whilst riding a bicycle and considered that a depiction of an adult riding a bicycle without a helmet is a depiction which is in breach of these community standards”.

The board ruled as it was not obvious in the ad that the women are riding in a private area, the complaint was upheld.

sinchiesAn online ad for reusable food pouch brand Sinchies was a second ad to come under fire from the watchdog after a viewer complaint around a suggested use for the pouches was to “smuggle alcohol”.

The complaint read: “These pouches are primarily targeted as kids’ food pouches. They have sent out an email to all their buyers about a great idea to smuggle alcohol in them. Do we really need to give people ideas on this topic as in my response my children know these are for them and it only takes me to fill one with alcohol and one of my kids to get it thinking its food and I’m then giving them alcohol.”

Sinchies defended the online ad, arguing the newsletter only is sent to subscribers who are over the age of 18.

“This particular newsletter was distributed at Christmas time and the image of Bundaberg Rum in a pouch was intended to be a suggestion to take a portion of alcohol to an adult function over the “silly” season,” Sinchies said.

While the advertiser apologised for the ad, the ASB ruled that the suggestion that the product could be used to “smuggle” alcohol is contrary to prevailing community standards on the moderate consumption and responsible service of alcohol. The complaint was upheld.

A similar ad to the one complained about

A similar ad to the one complained about

A poster advertising the North Wollongong Hotel’s New Year’s Eve Event raised concerns for featuring the names of the performers which included the act Starfuckers.

The complainant said the signage was located close to bus shelters and was “easily visible from the roadway and by pedestrians”.

The North Wollongong Hotel did not attempt to defend the poster, admitting it contained an obscenity and had been removed. “We won”t be using pole posters as part of any marketing campaign in the future,” it added.

As the posters were hosted outdoors and had a very broad audience that would included children, the ASB upheld the complaint, ruling the word ‘Starfuckers’ was inappropriate.

A final ad to fall foul of the ASB was a TV ad for a sport and camping store called Smirkey’s Sports which featured a scene showing two young children in a large icebox with the lid up.

The complainant argued the scene might “influence children to play within a similar item which could possibly lead to a fatality”.

The advertiser dismissed the complaints, saying “You or the complainant cannot be serious”.

Smirkey's Sports“I do not have the time to address such issues. I’m too busy trying to run a business which pays for departments such as yours. If anything the complainant (oxygen thief) is harassing me. Kids are killed everyday in cars / pools / on bikes etc.. does this mean we do not show kids on TV in cars / riding bikes/ or swimming. Contact GWN if you want copies of this hideous crime. I’ve got to get back to work now on important stuff.”

In its ruling, the board noted there have been instances where children have become trapped in freezers or other white goods and “considered that the depiction of a woman in a freezer in the advertisement was a depiction which is contrary to community standards on health and safety”.

The board also noted “safety around electrical appliances is an important public safety issue”, thus the complaint was upheld.

In response to the ruling, Smirkey’s Sports said: “Are you time wasters still wasting my important time? How many people have complained about my ad in ten years? ONE oxygen thief. And you take this oxygen thieves side and waste peoples time to justify your so called job.

“The iceboxes in question are not self locking and impossible to lock unless some sick bastard physically throws a child in there and physically holds the lid down with considerable weight and latches the unit. By the way this is probably shown on some T.V. programs that have endless themes of violence. This complaint is flawed as the iceboxes are not self locking. The complainant (oxygen thief) should be charged with harassment.”

Miranda Ward


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