Ultra Tune’s Jean Claude Van Damme ad banned for depiction of violence towards women

The ad watchdog has upheld a complaint about Ultra Tune’s ‘menacing’ and ‘violent’ ad starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The Advertising Standards Community Panel – the recently rebranded Ad Standards Board – said the happy resolution at the end of the ad was not enough to mitigate the earlier violence, and also weighed up the impact of the ad at a time when community concerns about gang violence in Melbourne is escalating.

The watchdog had previously dismissed complaints about the shorter television commercial. The social media iteration of the campaign (above), however, was longer and depicted a gang member smashing up a car in a dark alley as the stranded women look on.

The complaint, which was submitted by Mumbrella’s founder and content director Tim Burrowes, said: “This ad portrays violence and threatening behaviour towards women, with a gang member smashing their car headlight with a baseball bat… I am submitting this complaint because I am curious why it is still available online, despite what seems to be an obvious breach of the guidelines”.

The complaint noted the board had considered complaints against the shorter edits of the ad, but said this extended edit “[portrays] a much more threatening situation for women than the version previously adjudicated upon”.

In response to the investigation, Ultra Tune said the ad “contains no acts of violence nor portrays violence”.

Despite denying the violence, the brand said if there was any, it could be “justified in the context that the advertisement builds tension for dramatic impact and contracts with the gang’s ultimately benign intentions”.

A majority of the panel members considering the complaint, however, thought this iteration of the ad was considerably more menacing, and could not be justified by the unlikely outcome of Van Damme showing up to save the day.

“The majority considered that the happy resolution at the end was not enough to mitigate the violence. The majority of the Board considered while this level of violence may be relevant to the action movie theme of the advertisement, the level of violence was not justified in the context of an advertisement for road-side assistance,” the decision said.

“In the Board’s view, the advertisement did portray violence that was unjustifiable in the context of the service advertised and did breach Section 2.3 of the Code.”

The Board also considered the depiction of ethnic minorities and gangs, noting there is increased community concern due to news about gang violence in Melbourne.

Referring to its previous ruling on the ad, the Board said: “The Board considered that the advertisement did not suggest that ethnic minorities would or should form gangs and that overall the advertisement did not depict any material which suggested that people from any particular ethnic background would behave in a manner which is negative or inappropriate. Overall the Board considered that the advertisements did not portray or depict material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual preference, religion, disability, mental illness or political belief.”

As such, the board found the Ultra Tune ad did not breach Section 2.1 of the code, relating to the discrimination or vilification of race.

Ultra Tune said it was modifying the ad in response to the ruling.



Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.