Volley’s ‘Fuck off’ campaign censored by ad watchdog for the second time

Australian shoe brand Volley has been censored for the second time for using ‘fuck’ in its advertising, this time in an email advertisement sent to its customer database.

The email was issued by the internal Volley team to advertise a shoe with the words “fuck off” written on the tongue, and contained the text “we’re fucking back” with a line through the offending word.

A complaint received about the latest ad said it “uses highly offensive language that I do not believe is acceptable to be seen by children”, adding that “there is no warning noted that explicit language is used before opening the attachment and no way a child should be able to see this.”

The shoe in campaign photos by Sticks and Stones Agency

An Ad Standards Board panel upheld the complaint, claiming the language did not meet the watchdog’s community standards.

The ruling addresses section 2.5 of the AANA Advertiser Code of Ethics, which states: “Advertising or Marketing Communications shall only use language which is appropriate in the circumstances (including appropriate for the relevant audience and medium). Strong or obscene language shall be avoided.”

In its response to the complaint, Volley argued the language would not be in breach of the code “if it is accepted that the word ‘fuck’ has now entered common usage and its ability to cause offence has been greatly diminished.”

It added that the use of the word has become increasingly common in “main stream discourse including political discourse, motion picture dialogue and journalistic reporting”, where the word is already being shown “to a wide audience.”

Volley also argued that its target audience is men and women aged between 20 and 35, and that “the EDM was only issued to Volley’s customer data base who have signed up to receive EDMs and are familiar with Volley’s advertising and marketing methods.”

Volley has previously found itself in hot water for advertising the same shoe in posters which were displayed around Melbourne. At that time, the brand conceded the placement of some of the ads may not have been appropriate.

When assessing the latest case, the panel noted that although the email database is less likely to be seen by children than the previously banned poster advertisements, “the word ‘fuck’ in the written form in a targeted email was still a depiction of language that is not within prevailing community standards.”

Brand Collective, the makers of Volley, confirmed the email would not be used again and would not be issued to Volley’s customer database.


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