Hungry Jack’s has pulled an advert after the Advertising Standards Board ruled it breached the watchdog’s code in light of complaints it featured “unjustified violence”.
The radio advertisement for the fast food chain’s $4.95 Stunner Value Meal featured a “thug type character” threatening and hitting another man because he owed someone $5.
“You borrow that kind of money, you gotta be prepared for the consequences,” the thug said.
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This was followed by the cries of the man being attacked, and then a voiceover describing the importance of $5 and the food included in the meal deal.
A listener complained to the ASB on the basis that the ad promoted violence and was aimed at young people.
“Given the recent media coverage in relation to alcohol-related violence, the use of violence to advertise buying a food product does not set a good example,” the complainant stated.
“The ad is clearly aimed at young people and uses violence as a natural consequence for not returning money.”
In the hearing before the ASB, Hungry Jack’s argued no reasonable person would understand it to seriously suggest that Hungry Jack’s condones or encourages violence.
“It is in our view a gross exaggeration of what is, in fact, depicted in the commercial,” Hungry Jack’s said.
“The slapstick humour of the narrative scene, coupled with the comic incongruence of $5 positioned as a considerable amount of money, is an exaggerated demonstration of the value proposition of ‘Stunner’ value meals.”
The fast food chain also denied the ad targeted young people, given its actors voicing the ad were aged 30, 36 and 39.
However, the ASB ruled although the broader community was likely to understand the ad was fictional, the sound effects of the man being attacked were too realistic and thus a breach of Section 2.3 of the Code.
“The moaning and pained sounds of the man who has been hit are realistic and he sounds distressed,” the watchdog found.
“The sound effects were not sufficiently humorous or unreal to mitigate the depiction of hitting or violence. The portrayal of violence in this manner is not justifiable in the context of the product being advertised.”
A spokesperson for Hungry Jack’s told SmartCompany it had complied with the ruling and pulled the advertisement.
“Hungry Jack’s fully supports industry self?regulation on advertising and respects the Advertising Standards Board’s ruling,” the spokesperson said.
However, in its response to the ASB, the fast food chain expressed its disappointment with the decision.
“While we are disappointed with this decision and feel the content of the commercial was portrayed in a light-hearted humorous manner unlike much of the violent television, cinema and gaming content being broadcast in these times, we have removed the commercial in question from our broadcast rotation and it will not be aired again.”
Alina Bain, acting chief executive of the Australian Association of National Advertisers, says the key lesson from the case for business is that sometimes a depiction of violence will breach the requirement in the code.
“Hungry Jack’s took the advertisement down and that is the process, if a breach is found the ASB will contact the advertiser and request they take the advert off air,” she says.
“The code reflects on community standards and, as we know, they do shift over time.”
Bain says there is a “very, very high compliance rate” within the industry with ASB requests, a rate she estimates at 97% compliant.
If a business does not comply with an ASB ruling voluntarily the ASB can then make a direct request to the media source which hosts the advertisement to withdraw it. However, Bain says the ASB is unable to require the removal of an advert.
“If the advertiser does not voluntarily take it down then the ASB will make contact with the relevant media where it is placed like television, radio or outdoor and request that they take it down,” she says.