Top 10 ad complaints for 2016

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 13 December 2016
ISelect's 'snake bite' ad riled up viewers

From bare bottoms to brown snakes and boomerangs, there were some crazy complaints in 2016. The list, released by the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB), shows the most complained about advertisements raised discrimination and vilification as an issue.

“Discrimination and vilification is consistently one of the most complained about issues, along with sex, sexuality and nudity,” ASB CEO Fiona Jolly says.

“What we can see from this list is that the community is concerned about discrimination across a range of categories, including gender, race and lifestyle choices.”

Jolly explained two big campaigns, which were broadcast over a variety of media, were the recipients of larger numbers of complaints. This resulted in two advertisers taking up six of the spots in the top 10 list, however AdNews chose to remove the duplicate ads for our Top 10 Ad Complaints feature that in The Annual print edition.

1. Unexpected Situation - Ultra Tune by Frontier

The leather clad women of Ultra Tune always manage to enrage, with their “prominent cleavage” and “openly sexual ways”. Two Ultra Tune ads made it into the most complained about list this year, one showing the women sent off a cliff and another featuring the tagline “into rubber?”

2. Operation Boomerang - MLA by The Monkeys

MLA felt the full force of the vegan community after the release of its iconic Australia Day ad. In the ad, a bowl of kale inside a vegan’s apartment was set on fire – an act that was deemed “offensive” and “violent” by more than 700 complainants.

3. BCFing Fun - BCF by Clemenger BBDO Brisbane/Melbourne

Swearing is often a point of contention with the ASB, but not swearing? Well, that’s not much better. On complainant was incensed about the play on words in BCF’s jingle about outdoor activities. They even went as far to say it’s “contributing to the constant degeneration of our society”.

4. The Conjuring 2 - Roadshow Films 

Some people just aren’t cut out for the scary stuff, which was the case when Roadshow aired a trailer for its upcoming film, The Conjuring 2. The supernatural theme caused quite a stir in one household, causing sleepless nights for a few kiddies. ‘Harden up’ one might say, however the ASB felt the ad needed to be removed.

5. Health cover for every kind of family - Medibank by TBWA Melbourne

Two women kissing and a woman breastfeeding were the cause of controversy around Medibank’s 2016 campaign celebrating Australian families. The ad set out to reflect the ever-changing and expansive demographic Down Under. It didn’t go down well with some. One complainant claimed she was “not a prude” but we aren’t so sure.
Room service

6. Honey Birdette

Sexy lingerie can be a bit of fun in the bedroom, but in a shopping centre? Apparently not. An ad showing a woman in black slinky underwear garnered interest for all the wrong reasons at the ASB. The complainant was most offended by the bare buttocks of the model, with the ASB ultimately ruling to cover up.

7. Stop it at the Start - NSW Government by BMF

This ad set out to break the cycle of domestic violence against women showing the problem behaviours young boys often learn, but it got men’s knickers in a twist – because ladies throw punches too. The complainant says the ad is “sexist and biased” and it’s more likely that a women will hit a man... Hmm.

8. Strippers wanted - Stripperswanted.com.au

Not surprisingly, a billboard seeking strippers and topless waitresses was quick to offend passersby. One person says: “The sex industry facilitates, perpetuates and profits from the objectification of women”. Yikes.

9. Snake bite - iSelect by Leo Burnett Melbourne

Does a snake biting a person make good advertising for TV? iSelect would tell you yes, but a disgruntled viewer slammed the insurance company for using the humorous ploy. The complainant said snake bites are a real thing in Australia and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Relax, we say.

10. Sir Walter DNA Certified Turf - Lawn Solutions by Louder than Words

The ASB takes bullying very seriously, which is why a complaint against an ad showing a man shoving a handful of grass in his mate’s mouth was upheld. The spot came under fire for “encouraging physical bullying” and even with the appearance of a talking sausage, the actions were deemed to realistic.

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