The most complained about ads in Australia this year (so far)

Dinushi Dias /

Complaints about the treatment of women and Indigenous Australians have featured heavily in the claims levelled against the most complained about advertisements in Australia this year.

From January to June this year, the Advertising Standards Board received more than 3000 complaints, ranging from complaints about someone stealing a pizza from a delivery driver to a man having grass shoved in his face.

Of the most complained about ads, the advertising watchdog ruled 30% depicted women in discriminatory, vilified, exploitative and degrading ways.

Operation “boomerang” for Australia Day

The most complained about ad so far this year is Meat and Livestock Australia’s “Commence Operation Boomerang” campaign for Australia Day.

“Warsaw winter 96, minus 17 and not a chargrilled chop in sight – that was no way to spend Australia Day,” says SBS newsreader Lee Lin Chin in the ad, before wailing out to a grim winter.

The heavy political and military tones of the ad as well as its appropriation of Indigenous Australian culture on a national event led many people to believe it was in poor taste.

The ad received nearly 750 complaints for broadcasting on free-to-air TV, online and social media.

UltraTune’s dominatrix duo

At second place on the most complained about list is a free-to-air commercial featuring two women in skin-tight leather outfits that would make Rihanna blush, but the ad isn’t showcasing this season’s dominatrix wear, it’s marketing a tyre range by UltraTune.

“We’re into rubber, if you’re into rubber we’ve got an even greater range,” the baritone male voiceover says.

The free-to-air TV ad received more than 400 complaints but the Ad Standards Board dismissed the concerns.

The advertising watchdog also received a further 54 complaints for UltraTune’s complementary TV ad depicting the dominatrix duo suggestively holding tennis rackets, to coincide with Wimbledon.

UltraTune’s bad women drivers

UltraTune is notorious for running campaigns depicting women as bad drivers who shriek a lot.

It’s new “unexpected situation” ad starring women stuck on train tracks when their car breaks down not do much to change this tone. The ad received 208 complaints, which were upheld by the Ad Standards Board.

The other UltraTune ad broadcast on free-to-air TV showing two women driving off a cliff received over 100 complaints from viewers, however, the Ad Standards Board dismissed these complaints.

Horror film ads horrify children

Roadshow Film Distributors received 80 complaints for its commercials for horror film Conjuring 2.

The seven televised ads feature spine tingling scenes like vibrating crucifixes turning upside by paranormal forces, a woman looking into a mirror to find people staring back at her and screaming children.

The Ad Standards Board upheld these complaints, agreeing with some viewers that the scenes were too much for young childen who just want to enjoy their dinner and watch some light TV.

Medibank’s family ad horrifies adults

Medibank Private’s inclusive ad campaign attempted to show that the company serves everyone in Australian society as it is today.

The documentary-style TV commercial depicts all types of families including a lesbian couple and mixed race parents.

“I am not a prude but I don’t believe this is appropriate. I should be able to explain about people with alternative lifestyles when I feel it is appropriate,” one complainant told the Ad Standards Board.

The advertising watchdog dismissed the 66 complaints it received about this ad.

Lingerie ad hit on the wrist for advertising lingerie

Honey Birdette lingerie enjoys tickling feathers on its shop windows but its recent “room service” posters angered some for being suggestive of prostitution and soft porn.

The company is no stranger to receiving complaints about its advertising and in this case, the Ad Standards Board received 59 complaints about the ad.

The board upheld the complaints and in response, Honey Birdette swapped to a new “Natalie” campaign with a model “covered and wearing a full brief”.

Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a freelance journalist and a former StartupSmart reporter and multimedia content producer. She is the co-founder of Melbourne-based production house Dinushi & Power.