The ad with a cartoon character flashing children in the name of burgers 

By AdNews | 8 November 2021

The burger chain Grill’d has been found to have breached ad standards for violence and sexuality in a commercial where a cartoon character flashes children.

The Grill’d VS Plastic Toys clip has a version of McDonald’s Ronald McDonald opening his coat to two children in a dark alleyway.

The Ad Standards Community Panel determined that this advertisement breached Sections 2.3 (Violence) and 2.4 (Sex, sexuality or nudity) of the AANA Code of Ethics.

Ad Standards: “The ad showed a cartoon clown menacingly opening his coat in front of a group of children in an alleyway. The clown was also shown producing a knife from the toe of his shoe and attempting to slice a cartoon burger in half with it.

“The Community Panel determined that the ad showed violence that was not justifiable in the context of the product being advertised, and failed to treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience.”

Complaints were also raised under the Food and Beverages Code, Advertising to Children Code, and the Environmental Claims Code but no breaches were found.


“This  ad  portrayed flashing and also  encourages children  to  possess  and  use  knives  and violence  against  each  other.  Totally  inappropriate because it was aired at  a  time  that children  would  be  viewing." 


“The  advertisement  is  clearly  aimed  at  children  (note  the  "collectable"  toys).   It  depicts violence  with  a  deadly  weapon  (note  the  sharp  knife  followed  by  a  dramatic  fighting scene).   It  is  programmed  at  a  time  when  small  children  watch  TV,  often  without parental  guidance.” 

The advertiser argued the violence was a mild animated form: 

“The  cartoon  nature  of  the  violence  is  consistent  with  animated  superhero programs  and  is  justifiable  in  the  context  of  the  product  being  advertised  in  this fashion. 

"We  note  that  the  superhero  persona  of  the  burger  is  consistent  with  the messaging  of  the  advertisement,  being  a  'righteous'  figure  who  combats  against perceived  'evils'  in  the  industry  (in  this  case,  offering  plastic  toys  to  children  as  an enticement  to  purchase  fast  food  products). 

"We note some of the  complaints  received  express  concern  at  how  menacing  or frightening  the  clown  looks,  however  we  submit that the clown’s  appearance  as slightly  disheveled  and  mischievous  looking  is  justified  in  the  context  of  the  scene and his appearance overall is extremely mild.”

However, Grill’d said it would take steps to modify the advertisement to take into account the panel’s concerns.


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