The advertising watchdog has banned an amaysim advertisement for breaching “prevailing community standards on health and safety” because it featured a lawn mower being set on fire.
Encouraging viewers to “say goodbye to the things we don’t need”, the advertisement depicts a man holding a jerry can while standing beside a lawn mower that has been set alight. The advertisement then promotes amaysim’s no lock-in contract service.
The advertisement was broadcast on free-to-air TV during cricket matches and published in November on YouTube, but sparked complaints around amaysim encouraging kids to copy violent behaviour.
“Showing the audience how to set fire to it. Having this ad shown at a time when children are watching the cricket,” one complainant told the Advertising Standards Board.
In response to the complaints, amaysim said the advertisement was intended to be humorous and not taken seriously. Furthermore, the company argued the ad did not explicitly feature the man setting the lawn mower alight.
“The advertisement as a whole is whimsical and is unlikely to be taken seriously by viewers,” amaysim said.
The Advertising Standards Board considered whether the advertiser breached Section 2.6 of the advertising industry’s code of ethics, which refers to advertising material contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety.
In upholding the complaints, the board found the ad depicted dangerous behaviour and did not deliver a message about fire safety.
“The Board considered that the depiction of a man standing next to flames with a container of flammable liquid was a depiction of a behaviour which would be against prevailing community standards on health and safety and in this case did breach section 2.6 of the Code,” it said.
A spokesperson for amaysim told SmartCompany it was never amaysim’s intention to offend and the advertisement was discontinued on television from February 17 this year.
“The spot was intended to showcase a situation in an over-dramatised yet humorous way. As a company we respect consumers and their concerns and always aim to act responsibly,” the spokesperson said.
Bad behaviour in advertising needs to come with a lesson
Michelle Gamble from Marketing Angels says advertising that features risky behaviour must always come with a warning or condemnation.
“The most successful example of using that type of advertising to hook and engage the viewer, but you clearly communicate its a dumb thing to do and its risky behaviour,” she tells SmartCompany.
With the complaints in this case raising concerns about children copying the risky behaviour, Gamble also points out that traditional TV advertising time slots are now a thing of the past, thanks to online streaming and long-form campaigns available on YouTube at all hours. As a result, Gamble says advertisers need to realise all age groups will be able to view an advertisement regardless of the time.
“These days, people record programs to watch later so I think they safety of time slots is becoming less and less relevant. Yes they can skip the ads, but there’s not guarantee they’ll do that,” she says.
If businesses do proceed with advertising that pushes the envelope, Gamble says it has to make a point to condemn or ridicule the behaviour.
“You have to assume that any one of any age is potentially going to see the ad and however you push the boundary is done in a clever way,” she says.