The Advertising Standards Bureau has given the all-clear to Meat and Livestock Australia’s controversial ‘Operation Boomerang’ ad despite it drawing more than 600 complaints.
The ASB fast-tracked an extraordinary hearing into the ad after complaints began to flood in about the scene showing commandos smashing their way into a vegan’s home before using a flamethrower to burn his furniture.
Despite the high number of complaints, the ASB said the ad, starring SBS newsreader Lee Lin Chin and Lambassador Sam Kekovich, did not promote violence towards vegans.
The ad shows Chin launching ‘Operation Boomerang’ to bring home Australians for Australia Day.
Ironically, many of the complaints were about scenes that did not appear in the television version of the ad. An ASB spokesperson said people were complaining about scenes lifted from the online version of the ad which news and current affairs programs broadcast while reporting on the new campaign.
MLA presented its case to the ASB board yesterday at an extraordinary meeting and the board handed down its determination this afternoon.
In the statement just released the ASB said: “In the majority of the Board’s view a depiction of torching of the vegan food is an exaggerated and humorous response to the food that is not lamb – a portrayal of the food being less preferable to the advertised product, and not inciting hatred towards people who are vegan.”
It also rejected complaints about the use of the word ‘boomerang’ in the campaign.
“In making a determination about concerns about the term ‘boomerang’, the Board noted that most members of the community would be familiar with the origins of a boomerang and its connection to Indigenous Australians.
“The Board also noted, however, the Macquarie Dictionary definition of ‘boomerang’ to include a colloquial meaning of ‘something that is expected to be returned’. The Board noted that other than the use of the word ‘boomerang’ the advertisement does not depict, refer to or parody any Indigenous Australians or Aboriginal culture.”
It also rejected complaints about violence in the ad.
“Specifically, the Board noted complaints that the overall look and feel of the advertisement is violent and suggestive of terrorist attacks, that it is too violent for children and that the scene of a SWAT team member using a flamethrower is violent.
“In its careful consideration of these concerns the Board noted that the advertisement is clearly a depiction of a fantasy situation where SWAT-style teams are bringing Australians back to Australia for Australia Day.
“The Board agreed there are exaggerated and unrealistic situations which have a look and feel of a movie and that scenes of a SWAT member coming in through a window or ceiling are clearly in this vein.
“Similarly breaking down the door of the man in the vegan scene is consistent with the fantasy movie feel of the advertisement. In the majority Board’s view these images are all clearly fantasy and unrealistic and are not depictions of violence nor are they likely to encourage similar behaviour in real life.”
Meat and Livestock Australia said that the campaign would continue to focus on convincing consumers to eat lamb on Australia Day.
The MLA has contested throughout that the complaints process following the launch of the campaign that the ad is meant to be lighthearted in nature and that the MLA did not set out to cause offence to vegans.
However, last week MLA sent a take-down notice to an animal rights activist who had used seven seconds on film from the ad to make a parody, with the film featuring graphic images from a slaughterhouse.
Radio network Nova has partnered with MLA to run a competition to help bring Australians home for Australia Day and a spokesman for the meat marketer said it had been a huge success.
MLA has responded to the ruling with a statement.
“Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) welcomes the decision by the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) that says the Australia Day lamb advertisement has not breached the AANA Code of Ethics,” a spokesperson said.
“As a responsible advertiser and marketer, MLA operates in compliance with the provisions of the AANA Code – and this year’s Australia Day lamb campaign is no different. ”
“The role of the campaign remains to promote and build demand for Australian lamb, which is some of the best quality lamb in the world.
“The advertisement has been viewed more than 4 million times across media channels and feedback remains overwhelmingly positive.
“MLA is a not-for-profit organisation responsible for delivering marketing, and research and development programs for Australia’s red meat industry. MLA encourages Australians to enjoy quality Australian lamb this Australia Day.”