Ultra Tune and KFC dominate the most complained about ads of 2020 so far

Ultra Tune has topped Ad Standards’ list of the most complained about ads of the first half of 2020, followed by three entrants from KFC.

309 complaints were made about Ultra Tune’s advertisement which featured Pamela Anderson and Warwick Capper and took on TV program Baywatch’s slow motion running trope. Complaints regarding sexism, vilification, exploitation and dangerous behaviour were dismissed by the Ad Standards community panel in February.

For KFC, the ad targeted by community group Collective Shout, led the way with 187 complaints. The ad depicts a young woman on her way to a festival in a low-cut top and checking her reflection in a car window. The window winds down to show young boys and a disapproving mother were watching her.

Ad Standards received complaints about the ad sexualising the boys and reinforcing gender stereotypes. The complaints were dismissed but the decision drew ire from Collective Shout and the wider industry.

At the time Collective Shout released a statement from spokeswoman, Melinda Liszewski, that said: “Ads like this reinforce the false idea that we can’t expect better from boys. It is another manifestation of the ‘boys will be boys’ trope, hampering our ability to challenge sexist ideas which contribute to harmful behaviour towards women and girls.

“The research is solid: attitudes shape behaviour. A growing number of reports show how re-enforcing of gender stereotypes – including in advertising – contributes to a lesser view of women, resulting in their mistreatment.”

KFC’s ads that followed depicted a young man and woman lying in bed together. When he tells her he loves her, she replies with ‘thank you’. Another showed a boy leaving an exam early to be with his friends and declaring ‘Bucket’.

Language complaints about the use of ‘Bucket’ have previously been cleared by the panel.

Since the publication of Ad Standards’ list, Collective Shout has released another statement claiming the dismissal of both the KFC and Ultra Tune ads is a ‘failure of self-regulation’.

Liszewski said the dismissal of the ads that received hundreds of complaints indicates Ad Standards is not actually reflecting ‘community standards’.

“Ad Standards gives the illusion of regulation. But as its own ‘most complained about’ list shows, demeaning, sexist ads aren’t regulated. They’re actually endorsed,” Liszewski said.

“Even when complaints are upheld there are no penalties for non-compliance. So Honey Birdette, for example, can continue to refuse to comply.”

The Australian Association of National Advertisers code of ethics is currently under review with an update expected in August. Ad Standards has been contacted by Mumbrella for a response to Collective Shout’s statement.

An ad for AHM Health Insurance featuring former-cricketer, Andrew Symonds, shoulder charging a production assistant on set came in at sixth. The ad harked back to when Symonds decked an on-field streaker during a 2008 one day international match against India. It is the first ad on the list to have had its complaints upheld.

The list was rounded out by a Sportsbet ad in which a commentator of a towel-flicking fencing match declares one of the contestants is “nearly as whipped as Prince Harry”. The ad’s seven complaints were upheld.

The top 10 most complained about ads of 2020 so far: 

1. 0051/20 – Ultra Tune Australia – TV – Free-to-air
The advertisement features Pamela Anderson and Warwick Capper in a Baywatch style ad.
Number of complaints: 309

2. 0001/20 – Yum Restaurants International – TV – Free-to-air
The advertisement shows a young girl looking into the window of a car to see her reflection. 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 whilst laying in bed that he loves her and she replies with ‘thank you’.
Number of complaints: 66

4. 0002/20 – 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’ whilst leaving the exam to join his friends.
Number of complaints: 41

5. 0068/20 – Pretty Little Thing – TV – Free-to-air
The television advertisement shows model Gabby Epstein posing in various clothes in a beach setting.
Number of complaints: 14

6. 0004/20 – AHM Health Insurance – TV – Free-to-air
The television advertisement shows former Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds in a studio filming an ad. When a prop falls behind him and an assistant goes to pick it up, Andrew shoulder charges him.
Number of complaints: 13

7. 0185/20 – ReAmped Energy – TV – On demand
The TV on demand advertisement shows various toys speaking in a young girl’s bedroom.
Number of complaints: 9

8. 0078/20 – Universal Pictures – TV – Free-to-air
The television advertisement features scenes from the movie ‘The Invisible Man’.
Number of complaints: 8

9. 0111/20 – Creative Content Australia – TV – Pay TV
This Pay TV community awareness advertisement shows a young man in a police interview room with a detective and officer reporting that he has been hacked.
Number of complaints: 8

10. 0100/20 – Sportsbet – TV – Free-to-air
The advertisement features a scene similar to fencing at the Olympics, but the contestants are using towels. A remark is made by one of the commentators of the event that one of the contestants are “nearly as whipped as Prince Harry”.
Number of complaints: 7


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