Ad watchdog misunderstood complaints against ‘demeaning’ UltraTune ad says petition organiser

A woman who launched a petition urging UltraTune to stop its campaign featuring women in rubber suits as it is “demeaning to women” argues that an Ad Standards Board ruling which dismissed complaints against the ad has misunderstood the complainants.

Jodie Swales, whose petition to get Ultratune head office to withdraw the ads has attracted more than 1,200 signatures, told Mumbrella: “The ASB have taken the complaint that the ad is ‘degrading to women’ to mean that the women in the ad are being degraded. This is not what the complainants mean.

“They mean that to portray a woman as being a sexual object is degrading because it totally ignores a woman’s real identity, who she really is and assumes she has nothing more to offer than sexuality. They have denied that the ad is overtly sexual.”

Fiona Jolly, CEO of the ASB, told Mumbrella while they recognised there were complaints from a “lobby group” which viewed the depiction as demeaning the board had to base its determination on the views of the “broad community”.

(Courtesy of Ebiquity)

Complaints submitted to the Ad Standards Board against the ad were dismissed in June, with the board ruling the women’s attire of rubber suits in the commercial was relevant to the company’s new range of ‘rubber tyres’.

In its ruling, the board also noted “that the advertisement had been given a PG rating by CAD and that the advertisement was broadcast in the appropriate times for the rating given” and  considered “that the overall theme and content of the advertisement are not inappropriate for viewing by a broad audience which could include children”.

Swales said: “The ASB has also agreed with UltraTune’s statement that the ad ‘portrays the women as powerful and confident’. Women do not wish to be represented in this highly sexualised manner bearing a whip, clad in pvc leather with a focus being on their bodily appearance that is highly sexualised and acting in such overtly sexual ways.

“I would like to know how the ASB determine for a population of women in Australia that the ad is not degrading to them, without first being in contact with them, as I am on a daily basis. There are now 1,269 people (both women and men) who have signed a petition to say that the ad is degrading and demeaning to women. We are not talking about the women in the ad, we are talking about all women being degraded by such a portrayal.

“There are a host of other problems with the ASB’s response, including their denial that there is anything wrong with having children seeing this ad and that the use of a whip and the voice over do not refer to anything sexual and that the board find the ad to be ‘humourous’.”

Fiona Jolly, CEO of the ASB, told Mumbrella: “The board recognises the concerns of the complainants and the lobby group that is behind the petition. We recognise that there is a view that this type of image is demeaning to women.

“However the Ad Standards Board is not in place to take the views of interest groups as determinative – the board must make decisions about whether the broad community would find this advertisement’s use of sexual appeal both exploitative and degrading. The board is comprised of a diverse group of people who represent a broad range of community views.”

Swales started the petition urging UltraTune’s head office to stop the campaign after a lack of response from initial concerns lodged with the company.

She added: “It’s a bit like looking at a brand new shiny laptop and being obsessed by the casing or the cover and never seeing the potential of what is inside it – what it can actually do. Women and men have so much to give the world and it’s just offensive and wrong to portray women as merely sexual objects and men as merely interested in that which is what the ad says.

“I just think people won’t stand for this any more. More than ever consumers have a voice and they won’t spend their money on things that are harmful to children, detrimental to women and families. It’s the economy of ethics. 19 franchises contacted me to apologise. Many said they’d contacted head office but their complaints about the ad campaign had been ignored.”

UltraTune had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

Miranda Ward


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