Insurance company AAMI has been accused of encouraging theft and workplace bullying in a complaint to the Advertising Standards Board.
The complaint concerned an advertisement where two male work colleagues are talking at a work station and one man asks the other what he is having for lunch. The man has to guess as the lunch is not his own and we see a name sticker on the container for a woman who works in the office.
In the final scene, the woman is shown looking in the fridge and appears a bit confused about where her lunch is.
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The voiceover then describes that there are better ways to save money on car insurance than the act portrayed.
The complainant accused AAMI of promoting stealing and workplace bullying in the ad.
“I wouldn’t trust a company that promotes stealing,” the complaint to the Advertising Standards Board stated.
“Bullying, whether at school or in the workplace can cause much suffering and mental illness, and to make an ad that tries to make light of this is just nasty. ”
But the Advertising Standards Board dismissed the complaint against AAMI.
The board found while some members of the community may be offended by the depiction of a man stealing, matters of legality about the depiction of theft is not a matter for the board.
“The Board noted that the scenario is depicted as a not uncommon office situation and the issue of workplace bullying is a serious matter,” it found.
Kieran Flanagan, advertising creative director and author of Selfish, Scared & Stupid, told SmartCompany if you look at the most complained about ads in a year, the most complained about ad has about 20 complaints.
“In terms of the percentage of the population that is miniscule,” she says.
“In no other environment do we give credence to the point zero zero zero percent.”
Flanagan says it is a waste to spend time and money having complaints like this being heard.
“There is this paranoia about advertising being a bad guy,” she says.
“You can have Underbelly on TV with boobs, strippers and cocaine but you can’t have an ad where someone steals someone’s lunch.”
Flanagan says people should have a space to complain but there is a danger when they get offended by the smallest things.
“I understand brands have a responsibility but we put more pressure on brands to behave in a certain way than other visual mediums,” she says.
“You do get crazy complaints. It is obviously a joke.”
AAMI declined to comment.