ASB rules against air conditioning ad for ‘negative depiction of people of Asian descent’

A TV ad which aired on both free-to-air and pay TV for air conditioning company Actron Air has fallen foul of the ad watchdog for negatively depicting an Asian man.

The ad featured a brand spokesperson talking directly to the camera about how Actron Air doesn’t try to pretend to be Australia, with three men, two of Caucasian appearance and one Asian man dressed in green and gold and a cork hat representing overseas air conditioning brands who pretend to be Australian.

Ad Courtesy of Savvy Media Monitoring

Complaints against the ad argued it was racially offensive “as it implies that those of Asian descent are not true Australians”.

“This advertisement communicates that if you’re not white you’re not Australian, in particular the idea that if you’re Asian you’re not really Australian even if you pretend to be, like these ‘other’ air conditioning companies,” a complaint read.”We live in an increasing multicultural society this ad is out of touch and racist.”

Actron Air defended the spot by saying the men “represent ‘overseas air conditioning brands’, are not portrayed as individuals”.

On the ethnicities of the extras involved, the company said: “The ethnic origin of the extras is not even the point of their presence in the ad. We simply selected a cross section of heritages precisely to avoid focusing on any one specific ethnicity.

“The actual purpose they serve is to actually focus on our company, by highlighting our uniquely Australian heritage by presenting themselves as ‘pretending’ to be Australian through their wardrobe choices. They are all wearing similar business attire to highlight their corporate/multinational roots, and then over the top they each wear items of clothing to present themselves as ‘Australian’,” Actron Air said.

In its ruling, the Ad Standards Board (ASB) noted its past ruling on a Devondale ad which depicted Asian businessmen struggling in a farm environment in which the complaint arguing it was racist was upheld.

Similar to the Devondale ruling, the board noted the Actron Air ad “shows firstly the Asian man on his own and he appears puzzled and confused” and while it continues to show the other two extras acting foolish, they appear “‘Caucasian’ rather than from a particular background”.

It was the board’s view the Asian man was more strongly the focus of the opening scenes and was shown in an unfavourable light, thus the complaint was upheld.

In response to the ruling, Actron Air pulled the ad and will work to amend it before putting it back into rotation.


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