The 10 most complained about ads of 2021

Ad Standards

A still from the offending Crazy Domains ad. Source: YouTube.

Ad Standards has revealed the 10 most complained about ads of 2021, with a Crazy Domains ad depicting a man urinating against a building taking the top spot by far.

The ad generated almost 300 complaints, with people saying the scene was “offensive, bad taste, irrelevant to product and against the law”.

Others suggested it promoted binge drinking and urinating in public, and reinforced a stereotype of a “yobbo” type of man, “which may have been prevalent in the 1950s but not now”.

The Ad Standards Community Panel upheld the complaint, finding it breached the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics, and it was discontinued.

The second-most complained about ad received 114 complaints — less than half the number of the Crazy Domains ad.

This was a TV ad for Aussie Broadband, showing people using their garden hoses.

Several of the complaints focus on the language used, including the word ‘freaking’ and the phrase ‘bloody good broadband’.

Another suggested the male character is “made to look and behave like a half wit”, and one pointed to a scene in which a woman is lifted up by the force of the water pressure in her hose pipe.

“The [ad] where you can just see her feet as they lift off the ground looks like she is struggling and doesn’t want to be off the ground. It is very similar to images of people’s feet when they are being hanged,” the complaint said.

The panel dismissed the complaints, saying it uses colloquial and non-offensive language, and that the context of the woman being lifted from the ground is clear.

An animated Grill’d ad in which a clown — clearly modelled on McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald — appears to flash children in an alleyway also received 88 complaints.

While the clown opens a trench coat to reveal toys, some people said it still depicted sexual violence and hinted at knife crime.

“The use of perverts, vigilantes and violence to sell burgers seems extremely inappropriate,” one said.

The complaints were upheld and the ad was modified in response.

Other ads in the top 10 included a Wisr TV ad showing a man using the ‘smart part’ of his brain, deciding not to use a metal fork to retrieve a crumpet; an on-demand ad showing women discussing adult toys; and a Honey Birdette lingerie ad that hinted at strangulation.

In total, Ad Standards received more than 4500 complaints. Of some 300 ads investigated, just over 80 ads were found to be in breach of the Code of Ethics.

The top concerns were around sex, sexuality and nudity, Ad Standards executive director Richard Bean said in a statement. That was followed closely by health and safety, and then discrimination and vilification.

The top 10 most complained about ads for 2021 were:

1. Crazy Domains: Man urinating on a building, with 285 complains

2. Aussie Broadband: Garden hose ad, with 114 complaints

3. Grill’d: Animated clown villain ad, with 88 complaints

4. Wisr: Fork in a toaster, with 86 complaints

5. It’s Normal: Women discussing sex toys, with 69 complaints

6. Honey Birdette: Women in lingerie choking, with 59 complaints

7. SA Police: An ad depicting drink driving, with 50 complaints

8. Meat and Livestock Australia: An ad showing siblings fighting over the last piece of beef, with 41 complains

9. Asaleo Care (Libra): An ad for reusable period products featuring the jingle: ‘wear, bleed, wash, repeat’, with 29 complains

10. IAG Insurance: An ad showing children trying to protect trees, with 17 complaints.

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