Hunting store happy with “free advertising” after clashing with critics of bikini gun ad on Facebook

Emma Koehn /

A Townsville hunting and fishing supplies store is welcoming support from new customers after it received a complaint notice from the Advertising Standards Board over an ad that shows a bikini–clad woman holding a gun.

The business chose to publish the complaint notice on Facebook, prompting fiery exchanges from customers who said the ad objectified women. According to The Townsville Bulletin the business received a number of complaints from Facebook users in comments.

The store reportedly responded to one South Australian woman, who said the ad could be considered offensive, by re-posting selfies from her Facebook profile that showed her cleavage, claiming her opinion on the issue was hypocritical.

NQ Hunting and Fishing owner Anthony Pagan told the Townsville Bulletin he made the choice to republish photos of the individual because they were public property and the woman had failed to see her hypocrisy in complaining over the ad.

Yesterday, the business posted links to media reports about the ad and the conflict, along with the comment: “gotta love free advertising”.

SmartCompany understands the business has been busy with new customers, partly off the back of the conflict. A number of shoppers have clashed online with those who find the messaging offensive this morning, eager to say the response to the case has encouraged them to come in store this week.

SmartCompany contacted NQ Hunting and Fishing to discuss the response from their customers.

“When we put this information on our Facebook page, we received a large amount of support from the public stating the complaint was completely unwarranted, and a waste of time,” the business said in a statement to SmartCompany.

While users on Facebook this morning have claimed the business has been harassing those who complained about the ad, including the woman whose photos were republished, NQ Hunting says this is false.

“The only interaction NQHFS has had with these people is publicly on our Facebook Business page, which is available for all to view,” Anthony Pagan says.

While some on social media have suggested the business didn’t need to respond the way it did to one individual complaint, others have agreed with the store owners that the complaint to the ASB is pointless because “so many companies use hot women to promote their product.”

“It’s disrespectful to the process” 

However, crisis communications expert Nicole Matejic says that even if a business disagrees with a customer, it’s a big risk to debate the issue in public forums. This is especially important if a regulator or judicial body is yet to make a decision about the next steps, because there’s always a chance the business might be ordered to take specific action in future.

“They may well know their target market, but that sends a strong message about their values,” Matejic says.

“You never want to preempt any kind of outcome from a regulatory body – it’s disrespectful to the process. [The company] is looking at it as free advertising, but these things often have a very long time frame.”

Matejic says there is no issue with a business disagreeing with a complaint and communicating this via social media, but no matter what the circumstances, it can be more effective if you show respect first.

“Being so defensive shows me that they’re not getting any advice. I think the lesson here is that you’re never going to agree with everybody, but just because you don’t, doesn’t mean you can’t show respect.”

While a particular marketing message may be in line with what regular customers of a store expect, brand damage can still have an impact on customers across state and territory lines.

“I think it will have a different affect on audiences outside of Far North Queensland – there’s such a difference in audiences,” Matejic says.

SmartCompany contacted the Advertising Standards Board but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.