MLA 'racist' ad cleared by watchdog

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 25 October 2016
The MLA ad links lamb with sexuality, culture and language

Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) spring diversity campaign has been given the all clear by the advertising watchdog, after complaints it discriminated against white males.

Several complaints were issued to the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) on the basis of discrimination or vilification of race, with one person stating it was “racist” and “offensive”.

The ad, by The Monkeys, tackled the notion that there are a lot of the same faces being shown on TV screens and in advertising. It features indigenous Australians including Olympian Cathy Freeman, Rugby League player Greg Inglis and model Samantha Harris. Other Aussies present include Greek-transgender comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, television presenter Luke Jacobz, Bengali-Australian actor Arka Das and a long list of Australian extras.

At the time, The Monkeys ECD Scott Nowell told AdNews the ad approached the subject in a “very Australian way”.

One complainant wrote: “Racism. I'm anti-racist no matter what race is being vilified including white people. This advertisement clearly states 'too many WHITE people' in its commercial which is highly offensive.”

Another said: “Surely there is a more appropriate way to make lamb appeal to all racial groups without resorting to an attempt to appease those of non-white European descent by mocking the white population of Australia.”

MLA responded to the complaints saying there were “unfounded”, with the ad intending to celebrate diversity.

“In MLA's opinion, there is no better way to address this issue than to feature Australians from all walks of life and racial backgrounds in the advertisements. The tongue-in-cheek comment by no means treats white males unfavourably or seeks to ridicule such members of society,” the MLA said.

Despite the complaints, the ASB found the ad did not discriminate against a section of the community on account of race and dismissed the case.

“The board noted that there is discourse in the media about the predominance of white men on Australian television and considered that while this advertisement acknowledges and plays on this discourse, in the board’s view it does so in a manner which draws attention to the issue in a humorous manner but does not discriminate against or vilify the demographic it is talking about,” the ASB said.

The MLA is no stranger to controversy, with its Australia Day campaign garnering more than 400 complaints for its “racial insensitivity” and displaying “violence” towards vegans. The ad was eventually cleared by the ASB.

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