The advertising watchdog has let Aldi Australia off the hook after a complaint about a recent advertisement suggested that a talking loaf of bread was “bullying” a sunburnt shopper.
In the ad, a visibly sunburnt man opens the boot of his car to find a loaf of Aldi bread that berates him for being sunburnt, calling him “pink as a little lamb cutlet”. The loaf then continues to promote Aldi’s deals on sunscreen, before calling the man a “shiny, shiny lobster face”.
The complaint, submitted to the Advertising Standards Board last month, said Aldi’s advertisement condones bullying.
“Where there is such emphasis on bullying in society I find the final comment “shiny, shiny lobster face” made to the man is condoning bullying and is not something that should be promoted,” the complainant said.
The area of the AANA code of ethics the ad in question in this complaint is section 2.6, which relates to depictions of non-violent bullying.
In a response to the complainant, Aldi said it believed the ad to “comply fully” with the code of ethics, stating “no reasonable viewer” would believe the ad to contravene any section of the code.
“It is abundantly clear from the context that the man is not being bullied: the words “shiny, shiny lobster face” are a reference to the fact that the man is sunburned, and that he could have avoided this had he used sunscreen,” Aldi said in a response.
The Board agreed, noting the man’s sunburnt condition was self-inflicted and could have been prevented by using sunscreen. The Board also emphasised the non-human nature of the verbal assailant, labelling it “a computer-animated loaf of bread”.
“The Board considered that the advertisement is humorous and light-hearted and in the Board’s view the unrealistic, fantasy situation would not be seen as bullying rather as humorous,” the Board stated.
However, the Board noted a “high level of community concern” surrounding bullying in ads, which advertising expert and academic Lauren Rosewarne agrees with.
“’Bullying’ is a very serious issue in society. But it’s an issue that loses its seriousness – loses its punch – when it’s applied too liberally and when every jibe is framed as a case of it,” Rosewarne told SmartCompany.
“To say, therefore, that a man can be bullied by a loaf of bread seems a little excessive from my perspective.”
“That all said, sunburn is actually a really serious issue so I suspect, in this particular issue, it’s a more serious issue than the bullying.”
Rosewarne believes the complaint to be “out of sync” with prevailing community standards, and the ASB agreed, labelling it “light-hearted”.
A depiction of light-hearted humour in advertising is essential for some brands, believes InsideOut PR director Nicole Reaney, but she warns not all brands can implement humour correctly.
“The epitome of Aussie culture is laid back banter and humour is used as a mechanism by advertisers to draw in likability towards a brand,” Reaney says.
“However not every brand can execute humour effectively, there are a number of elements including the creative concept and brand ethos.”
Reaney also believes Aldi’s choice to use an animated loaf of bread in the advertisement was a good choice and kept the brand on the right side of the code of ethics.
“Using the bread as well as the language used in this Aldi ad has kept it within safe territory from crossing boundaries,” she says.
You can watch Aldi’s advertisement below.