Libra tops the list of most complained about ads for 2019

Advertising watchdog Ad Standards has revealed the 10 advertisements which received the most complaints throughout 2019.

Coming in at the top with 738 complaints was Libra’s #BloodNormal campaign, which depicted images of women going about everyday tasks whilst on their periods, such as showering and swimming, and used red liquid instead of blue to demonstrate the absorbency of pads.

When the panel handed down its ruling in September, dismissing the complaints, Ad Standards confirmed to Mumbrella that #BloodNormal had received over 600 complaints, making it the most complained about ad of the year. Now it is the second most complained about ad of all time, behind Sportsbet’s ‘Manscaping’ ad from 2018 which received 793.

The second-most complained about ad for 2019 came from Sportsbet – the winner of last year’s crown – for its ad that harked back to Todd Carney’s ‘bubbler’ incident, in which a photo emerged of him appearing to urinate in his own mouth. With 366 complaints, the panel found that despite the ad being distasteful and the employment of Carney appearing to glorify his past behaviour, these were not issues that the it could rule on. The complaints were dismissed.

A later iteration of the same Sportsbet campaign that was banned by the Ad Standards panel, came in as the ninth most complained about ad of the year with 31 complaints. The ad showed a beauty pageant contestant struggling to answer a question about why Sportsbet’s new app is so easy to use. The ad was pulled because the panel found that the stereotypical depiction of women who enter beauty pageants as unintelligent, incited ridicule against that group.

The trailer for horror film, Us, came in third. Issues of concern largely revolved around violence, however the panel dismissed the complaints in its ruling. In July, the Ad Standards mid-year tally had the trailer as the most complained about ad for the year.

Fourth was Charlie Sheen’s appearance for Ultra Tune with 161 complaints. Complaints against the ad centred on the vilification and sexualisation of women, and were also concerned with Sheen’s background with violence and negative reputation for his treatment of women. The panel dismissed the complaints, however an independent review of Ad Standards’ decision ruled that the ad had breached the code of ethics and had employed sex appeal which was degrading towards women.

Other entrants in the top 10 included Bonds’ Glo-Ball Warming campaign, that had 69 complaints dismissed, sex toy retailer Love Honey with 130 dismissed complaints, a billboard for the film It Chapter 2, and a social media ad for Penrith restaurant, Downtown Brooklyn.

Ad Standards chief executive officer, Fiona Jolly, said that sexualised content was the highest concern of complainants for the year.

“Sex and nudity, and discrimination or vilification are consistently some of the most complained about issues. This year also shows increased community concern about ads with violence or content which is exploitative or degrading,” Jolly said.

Jolly also applauded the fact that the Libra #BloodNormal campaign also received a nomination for its first ‘Kinder Conditions award.

“Our most complained about advertisements often reflect the community reaction to advertisements which push the boundaries on social issues,” Jolly said.

“The advertising self-regulation system provides a mechanism for judging community standards on these social issues, and our most complained about advertisement this year also received a nomination for our Kinder Conditions campaign, and overwhelming expression of public support for the Community Panel’s decision that the advertisement did not breach community standards.”

  1. Asaleo Care – Libra – TV – Free-to-Air
    Various period-related visuals appear on screen promoting the #bloodnormal campaign.
    Number of complaints: 738
    Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.2 – Exploitative or degrading, 2.3 – Violence, 2.4 – Sex/sexuality/nudity, 2.6 – Health and safety.
  2. Sportsbet – TV – Free-to-Air
    Protestors, a scam victim and Todd Carney are all promoting the Sportsbet app in stereotypical situations.
    Number of complaints: 366
    Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.4 – Sex/sexuality/nudity, 2.5 – Language, Wagering Code.
  3. Universal Pictures – TV – Free-to-Air
    Horror movie trailer depicting a family on vacation being terrorised by duplicates of themselves.
    Number of complaints: 244
    Issues of concern: 2.3 – Violence.
  4. Ultra Tune Australia – TV – Free-to-Air
    Four women lose control of their car and land in the ocean. Charlie Sheen invites them onto his boat and lends his phone to one of the women to call Ultra Tune.
    Number of complaints: 161
    Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.2 – Exploitative or degrading, 2.4 – Sex/sexuality/nudity, 2.6 – Health and safety.
  5. Love Honey – TV – Free-to-Air
    A montage of visuals depicting couples lovingly embracing each other and portraying excitement on their faces.
    Number of complaints: 130
    Issues of concern: 2.4 – Sex/sexuality/nudity.
  6. Hanes Brand Inc – TV – Free-to-Air
    A man holds a piece of technology in front of men’s crotches to detect heat signatures and to promote ‘ball cooling’ underwear.
    Number of complaints: 69
    Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.2 – Exploitative or degrading, 2.4 – Sex/sexuality/nudity, 2.5 – Language.
  7. Pretty Little Thing – TV – Free-to-Air
    A woman walks around the desert wearing an assortment of clothing and swimwear items.
    Number of complaints: 58
    Issues of concern: 2.2 – Exploitative or degrading, 2.4 – Sex/sexuality/nudity.
  8. Roadshow Films – Billboard
    The images depict the clown in the film ‘IT’ – first version shows a white face and red lines running over the eyes and covering the mouth and the second features only the clown’s eyes.
    Number of complaints: 40
    Issues of concern: 2.3 – Violence.
  9. Sportsbet – TV – Free-to-Air
    A woman in a pageant holds a phone with the screen to the audience which has the Sportsbet app open and promotes its ease of use. A superimposed graphic saying ‘foolproof’ is stamped over the woman’s neck.
    Number of complaints: 31
    Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.2 – Exploitative or degrading, Wagering Code.
  10. Downtown Brooklyn – Internet/Social/Facebook
    An image of a ‘Reese’s Pieces´ dessert is accompanied by a caption telling people to have their Epipen on hand due to the amount of nuts the dessert contains.
    Number of complaints:29
    Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.6 – Health and safety.

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