Cancer sufferer who complained about ‘sweet tan’ ad had ‘Skewed judgement’ says advertiser

airtrain gold coastBrisbane’s airport train service has accused a former cancer sufferer of having “skewed” judgement and a “loaded” interpretation after she complained against a now banned ad.

The woman, who says she developed a melanoma when she was 25, said an AirTrain ad which featured the words ‘Worry about getting a sweet tan, not about getting to the Gold Coast’ was promoting tanning and was “thoughtless at best and dangerous at worst”, in a complaint to the Ad Standards Board (ASB).

In its reply AirTrain said although it was “sensitive to the complainant’s history [it] is concerned that her past experience has skewed her judgment of the advertisement” as she was the only person to complain.

After seeing the ad at Richmond Station in Melbourne the woman penned the complaint to the ASB claiming the ad promoted tanning, and pointing out Australia has the “highest incidence of melanoma in the world”.

In its response AirTrain said it was “clearly not intended to promote excessive sun exposure or any unhealthy conduct” and “does not explicitly direct the public to go out and get a tan”.

It argued some sun exposure was necessary and a “‘sweet’/light tan is arguably unavoidable for a healthy lifestyle”, adding: “Finally, the complainant has specifically mentioned that she developed a melanoma at the age of 25. Airtrain though sensitive to the complainant’s history is concerned that her past experience has skewed her judgment of the advertisement.

“If the advertisement was indeed contrary to the ‘prevailing’ community standards (i.e. most widely spread opinion) on health and safety it would be expected that multiple complaints would be received.

“However, in this instance the Advertising Standards Board has received one sole complaint, which suggests that the general public does not share the same loaded interpretation of the advertisement as the complainant or believe that the ad is contrary to their own standards on health and safety.”

In considering the complaint the board noted there is “genuine community concern” about sun exposure, and noted the use of the term ‘sweet’ was suggesting a tan was a good thing, not that it would be a light tan as suggested by AirTrain.

Therefore it ruled the ad did breach community standards, and ordered it be taken down.

The advertiser responded saying it would take the ad down between September 6 and 13, but because it is on billboards it “cannot easily be removed as media contracts are in place”.

Alex Hayes


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