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Australia’s most complained about advertisements in 2020

Ad Standards reveals the 10 most complained about advertisements in Australia in 2020.

Over 3,400 complaints have been lodged with Ad Standards this year, raising community concerns about 369 advertisements which were assessed against one or more issues in the advertising Codes and Initiatives.

The most complained about advertisement in Australia in 2020 is a Baywatch-themed automotive ad which generated over 300 complaints across a range of issues including nudity, exploitative or degrading scenarios, and discrimination against or vilification of women.

“While the Ad Standards Community Panel dismissed the complaints in this case, the Panel has upheld complaints about these issues in other cases this year.

The community clearly remains concerned about the depiction of women in advertising and advertisers need to keep that in mind,” said Richard Bean, Ad Standards’ Executive Director.

He said updates to the AANA Code of Ethics and Practice Note effective from February 2021 will give clearer guidance to advertisers, ensuring more explicit obligations are in place across a range of issues including the use of sexual appeal in advertising.

Three ads from the one fast food advertiser were in the top five most complained about ads for the year. Complainants raised concerns about sexualised content, gender stereotypes, encouraging bad language, and promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.

All of the top 10 most complained about ads of 2020 were seen on television platforms, with a combined 770 complaints in total received about the content of TVCs on free-to-air TV, Pay TV, and TV on-demand.

“Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced media consumption this year and we’re seeing a notable increase in complaints about ads on TV on-demand in particular – an uptick in a long-term trend. The majority of complaints are still about ads on free-to-air television,” said Richard Bean.

While they got negative attention, the Community Panel found that the concerns raised in the complaints against each ad in this year’s top 10 did not breach the advertising Codes. This included complaints about a series of advertisements featuring two men in towels marketing a men’s deodorant, and an ad featuring a flock of flying bananas.

Overall in 2020 the Panel considered 340 cases, upholding about 18% of cases.

The advertising Codes cover almost all ads in all media and this shows a high level of advertiser compliance.

In total, 369 cases were raised in 2020, with 29 of these voluntarily withdrawn from broadcast or publication with advertisers choosing to modify or remove the content that triggered the complaints before consideration by the Ad Standards Community Panel.

The vast majority of advertisers found by the Community Panel to breach the Codes voluntarily removed or modified the content.

The 10 most complained about ads in Australia in 2020

1. 0051/20 – Ultra Tune Australia – TV – Free-to-air
The advertisement features Pamela Anderson and Warwick Capper in a Baywatch-style scene.
Dismissed
Number of complaints: 315
Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.2 Exploitative or degrading, 2.3 – Violence, 2.4 – Sex/sexuality/nudity, 2.6 – Health and safety, 2.7 – Distinguishable advertising.

2. 0001/20 – Yum Restaurants International – TV – Free-to-air
The advertisement shows a young woman looking at her reflection in the window of a parked car. The window winds down to reveal a mother and two sons in the car.
Dismissed
Number of complaints: 187
Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.2 – Exploitative or degrading, 2.4 – Sex/sexuality/nudity.

3. 0130/20 – Yum Restaurants International – TV – Free-to-air
The advertisement depicts the awkward moment a boy tells a girl that he loves her while lying in bed, and she replies with ‘thank you’.
Dismissed
Number of complaints: 66
Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.2 – Exploitative or degrading, 2.4 –Sex/sexuality/nudity.

4. 0300/20 – Modibodi – TV – Pay
There are two versions of this television advertisement promoting new period underwear.
Dismissed
Number of complaints: 45
Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.3 – Violence, 2.4 Sex/sexuality/nudity.

5. 0130/20 – 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’ as he leaves the exam to join his friends.
Dismissed
Number of complaints: 41
Issues of concern: 2.2 Exploitative or degrading, 2.5 – Language, Food and Beverages Code – 2.2, QSRI – 1.1.

6. 0298/20 – Modibodi – TV – On-demand
There are two versions of this television advertisement promoting new period underwear.
Dismissed
Number of complaints: 34
Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.3 – Violence, 2.4 Sex/sexuality/nudity.

7. 0185/20 – ReAmped Energy – TV – On-demand
This advertisement shows various toys speaking in a young girl’s bedroom which get a shock when the young girl talks back to them.
Dismissed
Number of complaints: 27
Issue of concern: 2.5 – Language.

8. 0297/20 – ALDI Australia – TV – Free-to-air
This advertisement shows a child throwing a rock at a flock of flying bananas.
Dismissed
Number of complaints: 21
Issues of concern: 2.3 – Violence.

9. 0224/20 – SOJO Pty Ltd – TV – Free-to-air
There are three versions of this ad for men’s deodorant which show two men in towels in a bathroom spraying the deodorant and sniffing each other.
Dismissed
Number of complaints: 21
Issues of concern: 2.4 Sex/sexuality/nudity, 2.6 – Health and safety.

10. 0220/20 – Menulog – TV – Free-to-air
There are three versions of this ad which are styled as music videos and feature the artist Snoop Dogg rapping about food delivery.
Dismissed
Number of complaints: 19
Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.2 – Exploitative or degrading, 2.4 –Sex/sexuality/nudity.

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