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 SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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  • paulbagz

    Just so you know Emma (and other readers), the young woman who made the initial comments that lead to all the dramas is NOT a customer of the store (as the article would portray), merely someone throwing their two cents in.

    • Colin Spencer

      Absolutely right! She was a member of the PC brigade from three states away, and probably has nothing to do with her time, other than to find topics that could offend her. Good luck with that. Besides, if you feel sure of your ground, and that an industry body is taking an unreasonable view of your promotion, you have the right to defend your actions and to resist the temptation to bow down to critics who appear to have irrelevant views.

      • Claymore

        A troll, is a troll, is a troll…

    • Claymore

      Yep, troll!

  • Rohan

    I can see where all the fuss is. The shotgun is not being properly handled irrespective of whether its loaded or unloaded. IE if not intending to discharge it, then it should always be in the broken state when carried/handled. If not broken, the muzzle should be pointed in a safe direction, like straight up in the air. However, I will award points for good trigger finger discipline.

    Oh wait, that was completely overlooked ’cause of SJW “Lets make an outraged noise now”.

    Am I allowed to say “Nice guns”

    • Claymore

      Yes, nice guns!
      As for the position etc, it is probably a prop, I have used them, no firing mech, not he point of the ad or so called (fake) complaint.

  • Claymore

    Doesn’t it get a bit too much to see radical trolls being given so much credit by smartcompany? Who’s side are you on? These trolls are not a voice for the general public, and are not representative of anyone except people that don’t contribute anything to society except anarchy, their ultimate goal. I do hope that a “business website” correspondent will differentiate between businesses, they are purport to represent and political agittators. Otherwise you will eventually become irrelevant to us, the hard working business people Really, we ar not interested in the opinions and trolls and those that support them. They are not our customers and they will not make one iota of difference to our business. YOU and the media give them the little credit they have and you are serving it to them on a platter. Poor journalism.

  • Claymore

    Hi Emma, I’ve been on the receiving end of these things in the Hospitality industry only to discover they never attended our restaurant. What does the media and other ëx-perts seem classify as a “customer” is not consistent with what a business defines as a “customer”, so their comments and opinions become irrelevant. Poor advise also defines the advisor, a two edged sword. Is an advisor an advisor to a business or a closet troll.