ASB clears Airbnb of ‘borderline sexualisation’ after equality ad airs during children’s show

The Advertising Standards Board has cleared Airbnb’s ‘Until We all Belong’ ad, after a complaint suggested it targeted children in a way that was “clearly unacceptable” and “borderline sexualisation.”

Airbnb’s equality campaign sees Australians trying on The Acceptance Ring – an incomplete ring symbolising the gap in marriage equality Australia needs to close.

The ad features people of different genders and ethnicities making pledges to wear the Ring until a time when marriage equality is passed as law.

The campaign was made by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne.

A complainant, who saw the ad on a subscription service children’s channel, said: “I do not approve of gay marriage and feel the deliberate targeting of children 3-7 clearly unacceptable and borderline sexualisation, not to mention my child’s adverse reaction.

“If they want to run these ads fine run them on adult ratings (which they don’t seem to except Sky News) so this campaign is very deliberate and sick and most of all I pay a lot to then be disrespected like this…. what’s next????”

The complainant argued Airbnb was in breach of 8 sections of the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ Code.

Airbnb fought back saying the ad did not contain anyone “scantily clad or nude” people, nor did it encourage discrimination or vilification.

“The advertisement has been classified by CAD and given a ‘G’ rating. The complainant mentions the advertisement was seen on the family channel and was following the movie Ice Age, which has a higher rating of ‘PG'” Airbnb said.

The accomodation-sharing website argued the ad did not discriminate or vilify any individual, did not contain depictions of sexuality or sexual imagery, and did not endanger the safety of a child.

Airbnb also hit back saying the advertisement did not frighten or distress children, but rather advocated “friendship” and “inclusion.”

The Board noted the complainant’s concerns the advertisement was sexualised and that discussions of same sex marriage were not appropriate, especially for children.

While the ASB accepted some members of the community might be uncomfortable with the ad’s theme of marriage equality, it was not the Board’s role to argue whether a social issue should be depicted on an advertisement, only how it was depicted.

Based on a similar case for Unilever’s Magnum ad, which saw two women getting married, The Board said the Code did not prohibit references to same-sex relationships and homosexuality.

Noting concerns of sexualisation, The Board said the language used was factual and there was no mention of sex or sexual activity.

It also said the ad treated the issue of same-sex relationships with “sensitivity for a broad audience which would include children.”

The ASB dismissed the complaint.


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