Dr Mumbo

How did the Ad Standards Board rule on its own ad?

The Ad Standards board recently launched a campaign to promote its services to the Australian public. What it probably didn’t expect was to receive several complaints about it.

It seems some members of the public took umbrage to the spot, which features members of the ASB board, and was variously described as “inappropriate” and “racist” and contravening free speech.

It seems there were a number of complaints about the ad including: 

I found it inappropriate how it showed woman in their underwear, in sexually implied poses.  I object to this ad being shown at 4:20 PM when children could be watching television. I was watching ‘Get Smart’ with my younger siblings and I did not find it appropriate for them to  watch. If the ad was shown at a later time I would be more understanding. However the sexual connotations of the ad were an unnecessary inclusion.”

“I find it offensive that a group of people think that they know what I want to watch on TV. Throughout the ad only Caucasian people were shown, I found this extremely racist and offensive.”

“With all due respect, I think that what your committee is doing and the message it promotes, to in effect limit and restrict speech, humour or content of other sort to what is “appropriate” based on your self-regulated bias is a big insult to the charade of a “free society” that we are supposed to be enjoying in Australia (but we`re not.) Having the government put a jury together which decides what goes and what doesn`t go on air is a huge suppression of our freedom to watch content we want to see. I believe the ad contravenes the basic human right of free speech by attempting to encourage people to complain about adds that may offend them. The bureau is another example of political correctness gone mad and a complete waste of time and money.

“It listed the reasons why a complaint could be made. When ‘sexist’ was listed, the background pictures were of bikini/lingerie-clad women. I believe this gives the impression that only images of women can be sexist, completely disregarding the fact that men can be inappropriately sexualised.”

“It seems racist and is offensive in the sense that the makers of this ad only seem to think that only white Australians would like to file a complaint.”

Of course the Bureau prepared a defence for its spot to its own board, explaining it was “prepared in response to recent research indicating that, while spontaneous awareness of the Bureau as a complaints organisation remained high, not everyone understood that the Advertising Standards Board, which considered the complaints, is made of people independent of the advertising industry”.

It explained the use of still images, noting they are stock photos “which do not represent actual cases, but are used to depict key concepts covered in the Code of Ethics and which may be complained about by members of the public”.

On the ad being racist, they said: “We consider that depictions of Caucasian actors in the context of the advertisement is not discriminatory. We also consider that the advertisement makes no specific or implied suggestion that people of any particular race or ethnic background should or should not complain about the content of any advertisement.”

However, it didn’t address the concerns around freedom of speech, explaining “this is not an issue under the AANA Code of Ethics and will not address these concerns in this response”. They, after all, are the experts.

Some might argue people who make an ad shouldn’t decide whether that ad is appropriate, and the members of the board who star in the ad chose “to absent themselves from the discussion of the advertisement due to their close connection with the advertisement”.

However Dr Mumbo was confused by the board noting “that a conflict of interest may exist for all Board members in considering the advertisement because it promoted the role of the Board within the self-regulation system” yet deciding that “there was not any material benefit to be derived by individual members of the Board as a result of their participation in making a decision regarding this advertisement”.

The Board did contact some of the complainants who gave their consent for the Board, minus the members who feature in the ad, to consider the complaints.

Somewhat unsurprisingly they then decided the ad did not breach the code.

Dr Mumbo wonders how the good people at Wicked Campers would feel about this.


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