MLA's Operation Boomerang cleared by ASB

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 19 January 2016

Meat and Livestock Australia's (MLA) controversial Australia Day campaign has been given the 'all clear' by the advertising watchdog, after a barrage of complaints led it to hold a fast-tracked review into the commercial.

Complaints against the commercial rose to more than 400 just four days after the ad's launch, but in response, nearly 1000 supporters of MLA's ad were quick to band together on Facebook to stop a "miscarriage of justice" in the banning of the ad.

Most of the initial backlash controversy surrounded the portrayal of a raid into a vegan's house, with a plate of kale being set on fire. Critics of the ad say the commercial is violent and discriminatory toward vegans.

One complainant said: "This ideology of violence towards those MLA considers to be unAustralian is exactly the same ideology behind the Cronulla riots. It's the same thinking."

Another said: "The sentiment is not very far removed from the KuKluxKlan and goes way beyond just ridiculing a minority group by suggesting perpetrating violence against them."  

One person claimed they had encountered abuse since the ad was aired noting: "I have personally received a threat saying " I will burn down your house like on that Australia Day Lamb ad if you don't f*** off".

Other complaints involved the name of the tongue-in-cheek strategy portrayed in the commercial – Operation Boomerang – which many say is insensitive to Indigenous Australians.

However, an extraordinary meeting of the ASB into the ad today found the “depiction of torching of the vegan food is an exaggerated and humorous response to the food that is not lamb - a portrayal of the food being less preferable to the advertised product, and not inciting hatred towards people who are vegan”.

With regard to Indigenous sensitivity, the board noted that while most of the community would be familiar with the origins of “boomerang” having Indigenous significance, “the board also noted however the Macquarie Dictionary definition of boomerang to include a colloquial meaning of ‘something that is expected to be returned'.

“The board noted that other than the use of the word boomerang, the advertisement does not depict, refer to or parody any Indigenous Australians or Aboriginal culture.”

In addition, the ASB dismissed complaints that the ad was “too violent” for children, noting it is “clearly a depiction of fantasy” and isn't likely to encourage similar behaviour in real life.

So far, the advertisement has had 1.7 million views and has been spoken of highly in the creative community.

More to come.

Did you miss any of the MLA coverage on AdNews?

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