Sexualised potatoes, racist cavemen and Aryan beer ad complaints dismissed by ASB

Sexy potatoes, a caveman transformed by an electric razor, Big W, Coca-Cola and Pure Blonde are among the brands to have generated complaints rejected by the Ad Standards Board.

In the Pure Blonde ad created by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, a crowd of blondes dressed in white fill the empty streets of Budapest creating “river of blonde” some viewers found racist.

Complaints received by the Ad Standards Board (ASB) said the ad was “overtly supremacist in its depiction of a white fair skinned pure blonde race of people.”

They said:

It reaches new heights of poor taste and ignorance to film such a scene of an Aryan race on the streets of city such as Budapest where less than 100 years ago 600,000+ Jewish people from Hungary were murdered in concentration camps in pursuit of such an Aryan race. History is awash with unspeakable horrors bestowed onto numerous races of people who did not fit the archetype this advertisement now presents before us.”

Pure Blonde blocked comments from running beneath its ad on YouTube video of the ad in March because viewers used offensive language in complaints the ad was racist.

Advertiser Fosters Australia Asia and Pacific said the reference to the ad’s setting in Budapest was only noted in a press release and the song chosen was because the lyrics were “appropriate and positive”.

Fosters Australia told the ASB:

The television advertisement does not discriminate or vilify as it does not show a negative depiction of a group of people, that is, we are not mocking those featured or being disparaging. Neither does the television advertisement claim the people are superior in any way and for that matter we do not agree that any religious or historical messages/references are conveyed.”

Dismissing the complaint, the ASB said: “The Board noted the community’s sensitivities to any depictions which could be considered to be making light of WW2 atrocities however the board considered that in this instance the advertisement is not suggesting that blond, ‘Aryan’, people are superior but is using them to represent the advertised product, Pure Blonde beer.”

The board also determined the scene featuring a man doing a somersault out of a window into the arms of the blonds below, did not contravene standards on health and safety.

Complaints that n ad for Philips AquaTouch electric razor was racist by depicting a dark-looking caveman who is transformed into a well-manicured and paler modern man after using the product.

Among the complaints:

“The advertisement draws parallels between having darker skin and being “less advanced” or ‘more primitive’ in the use and development of technology, while adopting modern electrical appliances, which the advertisement is obviously encouraging, is aligned with whiteness. I therefore feel that this advertisement perpetuates racist ideas and values which are harmful and contravene numerous legislative measures to eliminate racism and discrimination.The advert perpetuates unfair racist stereotypes. The “caveman” is a dark skinned, ethnic looking person who transforms into an ideal white “modern” man.”

Philips told the ASB that the caveman was dirty, not darker skinned.

“The TVC shows that with a modern product from Philips, he is able to transform himself into a modern man. The actor who plays the caveman is the same actor who plays the modern man. For the caveman scene, makeup has been applied and his hair arranged in a way that shows him as more dirty and scruffy, like a caveman. Due to more primitive hygiene routines, we interpreted that a caveman would appear more dirty and scruffy than a modern day man.”

The ASB dismissed the complaint as it determined the ad did not depict any material that discriminated against or vilified any person or section of society.

It said: “The Board noted that the actor’s appearance included a change from having darker looking skin to much fairer skin after the use of the advertised product. The Board felt that it was evident that this change in skin colour was clearly part of the transition from a scruffy and dirty caveman to a neater and cleaner modern man and was not a change in ethnicity.”

Other complaints were sparked by sexualised inanimate objects including a “hot potato” and a water bottle “with curves in all the right places”.

A radio campaign for Maranca low-carb potatoes feature three radio ads played on Adelaide’s Fiveaa in which two female potatoes talk to each other about how hot they are.

“These ads keep referring to Maranca the ‘hot’ potato and similar descriptions, effectively inviting the listener to view the potato with “sexy” feminine characteristics. The ads are simply blatantly sexist,” was among the complaints.

However advertiser Zerella argued the ads are not sexist. It said: “Sexism is defined as discrimination based on gender, or the promotion of gender stereotypes and while Fiveaa acknowledges that the female characters in the Advertisements use sexy tones and that the language is cheeky and irreverent, the language is not discriminatory, exploitative or degrading to women, nor to any person or group of people. The sexual inferences within the advertisement are subtle and the tone light-hearted.”

Dismissing the complaint the board said: “Whilst the language and tone of the advertisement is sexualised it is relatively mild and it is clear that they are talking about vegetables and therefore the advertisement is not inappropriate for a broad audience which could include children.”

Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) also responded to complaints that an outdoor ad featuring a woman holding a 600ml Neverfail water bottle and the slogan “Tall, slim, with curves in all the right places’ is sexist. But the board decided the image and the wording was not a degrading.

A TV ad for Big W featuring Modern Family actor Eric Stonestreet offended by featuring a woman applying a sample of lip gloss to her lips in the store.

The complaint:

“A person who does so has no idea of who has previously used the tester, and this dirty practice spreads diseases such as herpes simplex, staph, conjunctivitis and e-coli are spread from customer to customer through unclean lipstick and eye makeup testers. The advertisement promotes the idea that it is acceptable to ‘test’ products on the lips, instead of on the wrist or back of the hand, preferably over a piece of clear stick-tape.”

In its explanation of the ad, Big W parent company Woolworths said the offending scene was intended to depict value and although it is common practice to offer makeup testers, Big W does not actually offer a tester for this particular product.

“Woolworths does not consider that the purpose or intent of the advertisement was to encourage consumers to use the product in an unhygienic or inappropriate manner nor do we believe it would have that effect,” Woolworths told the board.

The ASB determined: “The lip gloss scene is very brief within the context of the whole advertisement and overall the advertisement is not condoning or encouraging behaviour which is contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety.”

When a cinema ad for Coke Zero was played before the wrong audience, Coca-Cola had to respond to complaints received by the ASB.

Among the complaints: “I know Coke Zero probably doesn’t care what message they are disseminating (that somehow drinking it will make you cool, fun, and help you get laid), but I don’t know what sort of message Walt Disney Studios wants to get across to young children by approving this ad during the previews for a PG film!”

Coca-Cola said the ad aimed at 18-29 year olds was intended to be screened before audiences aged 18 and over, but was mistakenly played before a PG movie by Val Morgan cinema advertising.

Coca-Cola told the ASB: “We believe the Just Add Coke Zero advertisement portrays a group of young people in scenes that that are neither exploitative nor degrading; they are a celebration of individuality, self-expression, youthful energy and friendship. The kissing scene referenced by the complainant is very brief and the couple are fully clothed.”

Dismissing the complaint, the Board said: “There is no suggestion that the actors have been drinking alcohol or that they are behaving in a manner which is reckless. The Board considered that the overall tone of the advertisement is of friends enjoying themselves in a responsible, alcohol free manner, the images of people are fleeting and there is not a strong suggestion of unsafe or dangerous behaviour.”The ad filmed in Buenos Aires was part of an integrated campaign launched in February.

Megan Reynolds


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