From public urination to falling asleep at the wheel: The most complained about ads of 2021 so far

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Source: Unsplash/Jonas Leupe.

Ad Standards has released its list of the most-complained about ads in 2021 so far, with an ad depicting a man urinating causing the most offence by many lengths. 

Issues around discrimination and vilification drove a number of the complaints, while health and safety concerns and unsafe driving also got people riled up.

The most complained about ad by a long shot was a Crazy Domains ad that featured a man urinating on a building.

This attracted some 283 complaints, compared to the second-most complained about ad — one showing people using a hose to varying degrees of success, and including the words ‘bloody’ and ‘freaking’ — which received 74.

Complaints about the Crazy Domains ad included concerns about discrimination against men, nudity, and health and safety issues — that is, depiction of unhygienic behaviour.

One complaint called the actions depicted in the ad “offensive, bad taste, irrelevant to product and against the law”.

Others suggested the ad was degrading to men, supporting a negative ‘yobbo’ stereotype. Many also noted that the ad was played during PG viewing times, and was seen by children.

The complaints were upheld, and the ad was removed from the air.

Of the ten most complained about ads, only three had their complaints upheld.

Two of these were upheld under the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries Motor Vehicle Advertising Code for showing unsafe driving practices.

One of these was an ad for Volvo Car Australia, which showed various scenes of parents “running around after” children, and then a woman falling asleep at the wheel.

The list also included an anti-drink driving ad from South Australia Police, in which a man refers to himself as a “selfish prick”; an ad for Huddle Insurance which was considered derogatory to both the women and men depicted; and a series of eHarmony ads that some viewers considered to be too explicit.

“Too much kissing..sloppy lips..revolting,” one complaint read.

“And with COVID such an issue I was particularly concerned by the ad.”

However, in a blog post, Ad Standards noted that the ten ads received a combined 496 complaints. That’s the lowest recorded since it started releasing mid-year statistics.

According to Ad Standards, 17 ads were withdrawn after advertisers voluntarily modified or removed offending content.

“These combined measures indicate advertiser’s continued support for and compliance with the advertising self-regulatory system,” the blog said.

Elsewhere, Ad Standards has upheld complaints against a Sportsbet ad that mocked the name of a Kenyan athlete. This was found to vilify a person on account of nationality.

“The Community Panel found that the Kenyan athlete’s name mocked the pronunciation of some Kenyan names and was vilifying of the woman by humiliating and inciting ridicule of her and all Kenyans based on their names, noting that these kind of jokes were well past their use by dates,” the organisation said.

You can see the full list of the 10 most complained about ads here.

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