Complaints claiming Tooheys Extra Dry ‘mouth abuse’ ad is sexist dismissed by ad watchdog

The Advertising Standards Board has dismissed complaints against the Tooheys Extra Dry ‘mouth abuse ad’ which claimed the ad was sexist.

Created by BMF, who also created the infamous ‘Tongue’ ad, the “mouth abuse” spot is built on the idea that “being a mouth can be a ‘thankless job’” and tells consumers it is time people repaid their mouths for the “years of mouth abuse endured”, suggesting that one way to repay them is with “the clean crisp taste of Tooheys Extra Dry”.

A complaint to the ad watchdog said: “This ad is horrendously sexist, I’d think even a lot of men would be offended by the suggestion that this advertising campaign would appeal to them, even my boyfriend finds it disgusting.”

Another read: “The notion that lying to a woman about loving her is a joke is offensive, it is also implied that this is a burden for men. It plays into the disgusting idea that by telling a woman that you love her when you don’t you’ll be able to fool her into some kind of sexual encounter.”

A third complaint ran along similar lines: “This is a pretty unnecessary and bizarre message to include in any advertisement, they’ve literally gone out of their way to make a sexist and offensive advertisement – I guess thinking that bigotry would appeal to their target audience? Which is also insulting.”

Lion, the parent company of Tooheys Extra Dry, defended the campaign, telling the ad watchdog that it does not vilify or discriminate the female character.

“With regard to the gender depiction in this Advertisement, there is not enough interaction shown in the two second scene between Mike and the unknown female to give any indicators to their relationship – the viewer does not see either person’s facial expressions, their surroundings, or have any history or background to their relationship. Without this information it is unreasonable to draw conclusions that discrimination or vilification is present generally or based on gender,” Lion said.

“The nature of the advertisement leaves it up to the viewer to interpret the roles of the characters and how they perceive the “I love you” said by Mike to the female character – gender is irrelevant to this consideration.

“Finally, it is important to note that the major focus of this advertisement is on the product, not the flash back scene, which lasts for approximately two seconds, and serves only to highlight the taste attributes of Tooheys Extra Dry in a humorous way.

Lion also addressed concerns of violence, telling the board that the commercial does not depict any violence, as “the overall events in the Advertisement are stylised in a way that presents them as fantasy rather than real-life possibilities in the eyes of a general member of the target audience”.

“For story-telling purposes it is also vital that the Mouth is shown to jump off the Man’s face so that the audience can clearly see the two characters having a conversation. Every effort has been taken to ensure that this action is shown in a way that is in no way violent, including not showing the mouth actually leaving the face.”

The board ultimately dismissed the complaints, nothing that while the purpose of the ‘I love you’ lie is “to fool the woman into a sexual encounter”, “the issue of lying in this manner is not encouraged”.

It also noted “that it is not clear that the man lures the woman into a sexual encounter by lying to her and that it does not amount to material that discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of gender”.

On the issue of violence, the board “noted the overall theme of the advertisement of rewarding your mouth and considered that in this context the depiction of the mouth leaving a man’s face is not a depiction that portrays violence, but is adding emphasis to the idea of rewarding your mouth as if it is a separate entity to the rest of your body”.

Miranda Ward


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