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Devondale request independent review on banned flavoured milk ad

An ad for Devondale flavoured milk featuring a group of adventurous kids getting up to mischief, including taping one child to a wall, has been been banned by the advertising watchdog for presenting unsafe behaviour.

However  the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) rejected complaints that the ‘Cape’ ad would lead to copycat bullying behaviour.

(Ad courtesy of Ebiquity) 

The ruling has led to the withdrawal of the ad, with Devondale saying it has no plans to re-run the commercial in an unmodified form and have said they will be contacting the ASB to request an independent review of the determination.

The complaint to the ASB read: “The content disturbs me – especially seeing a young child being ‘duct taped’ to a wall! There is enough bullying happening amongst young people without giving them more ideas via this ridiculous ad.”

The ad is part of a campaign for the dairy brand created by DDB Melbourne which includes the Soy Aftertaste Face spot, and is the second in the series to be banned by the ASB, which in October ruled against Devondale’s ‘Glow girl’ ad, finding the tagline ‘preservatives have consequences’ “would be considered misleading by reasonable members of the community”.

The ad was modified and re-released with the new tagline “what are you feeding your kids”.

Devondale cited these ads in its response to the complaints, telling the ad watchdog: “All spots in the TV campaign are intended to be humorous and not to be taken literally. The use of humour and exaggeration is consistent across all ads. Therefore, the intent of the whole campaign is to provide a light touch and engage viewers using humour whilst promoting Devondale’s range of products to parents.”

Devondale continued: “The particular scene referenced by the complainant features a young boy being taped to a brick wall by two friends. At no point does the young boy express any distress at being taped to the wall – on the contrary he appears very relaxed, inclusive and amused as he plays along with the game and his friends.

“It is our view that there is no evidence of bullying and violence in the “Cape” TVC, as the child is not being forcibly taped to the wall, and his friends are not intending to hurt him. Rather, they are all enjoying a game together, which is further demonstrated through the lighthearted and humorous tone of the advertisement.”

The ASB agreed with Devondale on the bullying complaint, noting “that the boy who is duct taped to the wall does not appear to be distressed or concerned about what is happening to him and considered that overall the advertisement depicts children getting up to naughty things as part of a group rather than bullying one another.”

The Board “considered that the depiction would be unlikely to lead to copycat bullying behaviour”, ruling “that in the context of an advertisement which depicts children playing games the depiction of the boy being happily duct taped to a wall is not a depiction of bullying behaviour.”

However, the ASB found another scene did breach guidelines, with the board noting “in another scene we see children painting a vehicle and considered that this behaviour is portrayed in a manner which suggests that the children know what they are doing is wrong and that they are trying not to get caught.”

Noting the ad was intended to create a series of child-like incidents which are inherently not sensible to do to contrast with how sensible the low-fat chocolate milk is, the majority of the board considered “the advertisement’s suggestions that this is not ‘sensible’ behaviour is insufficiently clear to child viewers that the behaviour is unsafe and should not be copied”.

Indicating that not all members of the ASB panel agreed with the verdict, the watchdog said: “A minority of the Board considered that the message of the advertisement is for adults to acknowledge what children get up to when they are unsupervised and that the advertisement does not portray or encourage unsafe behaviour.”

Devondale has written to the ASB “to request an independent review of the determination made in this case”.  

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