Uber Eats’ Australian Open campaign catches the attention of industry watchdog after a complaint is lodged over ‘indistinguishable’ advertising

Uber Eats’ high-profile Australian Open campaign has attracted the attention of industry watch dog Ad Standards after a complaint was lodged regarding how easily distinguishable the ads are from the actual coverage of the tennis grand slam.

The campaign consists of TVCs which bookend ad breaks during the Australian Open coverage on Nine to make it seem like the telecast of the tennis has returned. Well-known tennis players including Serena Williams, Ash Barty, Nick Kyrios and Grigor Dimitrov appear like they are in the midst of a match, but are interrupted by the delivery of their Uber Eats orders.

The complaint lodged to Ad Standards acknowledged the positive attention the campaign had received from the advertising and media industries, however argued that it breached the AANA Code of Ethics which requires that “Advertising or Marketing Communications shall be clearly distinguishable as such to the relevant audience”.

“Whether the ads are an ad or actual programming is not immediately clear resulting in a different interaction with the ad. Clear boundaries are supposed to exist between the ads and the Open,” the complainant wrote.

“These are blatantly being blurred. This is being applauded by advertising executives, but is very frustrating for viewers who are looking to enjoy the Open and not be suckered into watching ads they would otherwise likely ignore.”

The campaign first appeared during the Australian Open in 2019, and came as a result of the collaboration between Uber Eats, its creative agency Special Group, Nine and Tennis Australia.

In its response to the complaint, Uber Eats argued that its own, Nine’s and Tennis Australia’s intention was to “capture everyone’s attention with an unexpected advertising moment”. The delivery service also stated that it worked closely with its media agency, Mediacom, to “ensure the placement of these ads would not interrupt the live broadcast”.

The brand also argued that the appearance of the branded Uber Eats bag and standard tagline of “Tonight, I’ll be eating…” makes it clear to the audience that the films are advertisements.

In making its decision, the community panel referred to back to a complaint made about the 2019 version of the campaign which was dismissed. When deliberating on that complaint, the panel decided whilst “it may not be immediately clear within the first few seconds that [it] is an advertisement, however considered after this time the use of logos, disclaimers and wording would make it clear to most viewers that this is an advertisement”.

The panel stood by this decision for the 2020 campaign, noting that although the ad was designed to grab viewers’ attention “by inducing a very temporary confusion in the viewer, [it] is clearly distinguishable as advertising material to the relevant audience”.

Subsequently the panel dismissed the complaint.


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