Modibodi gets two most complained about ads of 2020, but Ultra Tune takes the crown

Ultra Tune and KFC have maintained their position at the top of Ad Standards’ list of the most complained about ads of 2020, meanwhile new entrant Modibodi has secured two positions on the list for its ‘The new way to period’ campaign.

Issues of sex, sexuality and gender stereotypes were the leading cause for complaints this year. Ultra Tune’s Baywatch-style ad that starred Warwick Capper and Pamela Anderson received 315 complaints this year, regarding sexism, vilification, exploitation and dangerous behaviour.

Meanwhile KFC’s ad that featured a young woman in a low-cut top checking her reflection in a car window, attracted 187 complaints for the year based on concerns the young boys watching her inside the vehicle reinforced inappropriate gender stereotypes. The ad was targeted by feminist organisation Collective Shout, however both it and the Ultra Tune campaign were dismissed by the Ad Standards community panel.

“While the Ad Standards Community Panel dismissed the complaints in this case, the panel has upheld complaints about these issues in other cases this year,” said Richard Bean, Ad Standards’ executive director.

“The community clearly remains concerned about the depiction of women in advertising and advertisers need to keep that in mind.”

KFC’s two other entrants on the list depicted a young man replying “thank you” to a young woman’s “I love you” whilst in bed together, and another man declaring ‘bucket’ and leaving an exam to join his friends outside. The first of the two ads received 66 complaints regarding vilification and degradation of the young woman, as well as sexualised content. The latter drew 41 complaints based on the coarse language alluded to with ‘bucket’, which had been cleared by the panel in previous years.

Two versions of Modibodi’s ‘The new way to period’ landed on the top 10 list this year. The Emotive-created campaign hit the headlines earlier this year after Facebook banned – and quickly backtracked – the film from running as an ad on its platform due to its use of red to allude to menstrual blood, saying it has a “higher set of standards” for advertisements than organic content.

The two versions of the film that caught the attention of complainants receiving 45 and 34 complaints. Both attracting concern about the depiction of menstrual blood and allusions to nudity in the campaign. Both cases were dismissed by the panel.

Other entrants on the list include Aldi’s flying banana campaign, which drew 21 complaints about ‘violence’ against the birds as a boy threw a rock at flying bananas, the launch of Tradie’s body sprays with The Inspired Unemployed and Menulogg’s campaign with Snoop Dogg.

Compared to 2019, it was a much more tame year for Ad Standards. All cases in the top 10 were dismissed this year, and the number of complaints for Ultra Tune was far lower than the 738 received by last year’s leader Libra, for its #BloodNormal campaign – which addressed the same stigmas surrounding periods as Modibodi.

Throughout the course of the year, 3,400 complaints were lodged with Ad Standards about 369 advertisements. Of the 340 cases considered by the community panel, just 18% were upheld.

Bean noted that the majority of complaints came from television mediums.

“Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced media consumption this year and we’re seeing a notable increase in complaints about ads on TV on-demand in particular – an uptick in a long-term trend. The majority of complaints are still about ads on free-to-air television,” he said.

The 10 most complained about ads in Australia in 2020

1. 0051/20 – Ultra Tune Australia – TV – Free-to-air

The advertisement features Pamela Anderson and Warwick Capper in a Baywatch-style scene.
Number of complaints: 315

2. 0001/20 – Yum Restaurants International – TV – Free-to-air

The advertisement shows a young woman looking at her reflection in the window of a parked car. The window winds down to reveal a mother and two sons in the car.
Number of complaints: 187

3. 0130/20 – Yum Restaurants International – TV – Free-to-air

The advertisement depicts the awkward moment a boy tells a girl that he loves her while lying in bed, and she replies with ‘thank you’.
Number of complaints: 66

4. 0300/20 – Modibodi – TV – Pay

There are two versions of this television advertisement promoting new period underwear.
Number of complaints: 45

5. 0130/20 – Yum Restaurants International – TV – Free-to-air

The advertisement shows a student completing an exam. He sees his friends outside with KFC and says ‘bucket’ as he leaves the exam to join his friends.
Number of complaints: 41

6. 0298/20 – Modibodi – TV – On-demand

There are two versions of this television advertisement promoting new period underwear.
Number of complaints: 34

7. 0185/20 – ReAmped Energy – TV – On-demand

This advertisement shows various toys speaking in a young girl’s bedroom which get a shock when the young girl talks back to them.
Number of complaints: 27

8. 0297/20 – ALDI Australia – TV – Free-to-air

This advertisement shows a child throwing a rock at a flock of flying bananas.
Number of complaints: 21

9. 0224/20 – SOJO Pty Ltd – TV – Free-to-air

There are three versions of this ad for men’s deodorant which show two men in towels in a bathroom spraying the deodorant and sniffing each other.
Number of complaints: 21

10. 0220/20 – Menulog – TV – Free-to-air

There are three versions of this ad which are styled as music videos and feature the artist Snoop Dogg rapping about food delivery.
Number of complaints: 19


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