Lotterywest ad pulled for showcasing behaviour which breaches COVID-19 safety regulations

A complaint concerned about a man not washing his hands and hugging a stranger in a public bathroom in an ad for Western Australia’s Lotterywest has been upheld by industry watchdog Ad Standards.

The ad first launched in November 2019, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia, however the complainant was concerned about the brand making a mockery of social distancing and hygiene regulations.

A newer version of the ad went to air between Sunday 5 July and Tuesday 7 July with a new voice over, which said: “There’s Frank. Little does he know he’s about to be hugged by a stranger in the toilet. There he is, enter stranger. He’s won Oz Lotto. Forget the elbow taps, he’s gone all in. Oz Lotto. Tuesday.”

The ad that launched in November can be seen here: 

In its response, Lotterywest admitted that once the new ad had launched, it identified it may be in breach of community guidelines surrounding health and safety, an element of the AANA Code of Ethics, and pulled the ad straight away. However, it said that the original version of the ad may run again once social distancing is no longer required in Western Australia.

The Western Australian COVID-19 guidelines were considered by the Ad Standards community panel in its deliberation. At the time of the panel’s meeting the guidelines were: keep 1.5m away from others, don’t make unnecessary physical contact with others, and wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based sanitiser.

The panel acknowledged brands reusing old advertising material which showed people interacting without social distancing would not be unreasonable given the challenges currently facing the production sector. If the ad didn’t reference the pandemic or deliberately call for people to breach current guidelines, then it “would be unlikely to be seen by most members of the community to be against prevailing community standards on health and safety”, the panel said.

The panel decided, however, that in this case, the new voice over’s mention of elbow taps, and the behaviour of the man in the bathroom stall was a “direct reference to current health recommendations and a portrayal of behaviour which would be against these recommendations”.

The ad was therefore found to be in breach of the AANA’s Code of Ethics.

When Ad Standards’ then-CEO, Fiona Jolly, spoke to Mumbrella in April, she said that the organisation was anticipating ads to be repurposed and ads that had previously been judged and cleared by the panel continuing to attract complaints.

“We are now seeing advertisers reusing a lot of ads,” Jolly told Mumbrella.

“So, because they’ve not actually been able to create new material necessarily, there’s a lot of ads that are out there at the moment that we’ve already looked at. So rather than looking at them again we will respond to the community that complained and say ‘We already looked at this ad and said it was fine’.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.