Advertising

The top 10 most complained about ads for the first half of 2019

Dominic Powell /

With the end of financial year come and gone, Australia’s advertising watchdog has unveiled its list of most complained-about ads in the first six months of the year.

In the mix this time are a collection of movie trailers, the inevitable UltraTune ad, and a smattering of misconstrued sexual innuendos.

In total, the 10 ads garnered 545 complaints, with the first two taking the lion’s share. But, only two (the Ultratune and Honey Birdette ads) were banned by the watchdog.

Check out what Australians were most annoyed about this year.

1. A trailer for the movie ‘Us

Leading the pack by a significant margin with 244 complaints, the trailer for Jordan Peele’s most recent thriller copped a lot of flak from disgruntled Aussies in the past six months, likely due to its spook-inducing scenes and unsettling motifs.

“It’s extremely frightening and depicts blood and high levels of gore and a frightened family, plus the ‘evil’ characters,” said one complainant.

“I was offended because my 9yo son who loves to watch Young Sheldon was watching with me. He saw the ad for “Us” and was terrified, especially that its [sic] his bed time straight after Sheldon,” said another.

“Not impressed.”

2. Ultratune’s Charlie Sheen ad

It wouldn’t be a list of most complained-about ads without Ultratune. This time, the company picked Two and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen as their washed-up celebrity of choice  previous ads have featured Mike Tyson and Jean Claude Van Damme. The ad received 191 complaints.

“My primary objection to the advertisement is that it is blatantly sexist,” wrote one complainant.

“Featuring four young woman [sic] as helpless and hysterical when their car brakes fail, the sexism continues as they climb abroad the boat sparsely dressed with pouting lips. It exhibits the sort of casual, insipid sexism of advertisements that might have aired two or three decades ago.”

3. Trailer for the movie Pet Sematary

Another movie trailer that upset viewers, this time for the adaptation of Stephen King classic Pet Sematary. Similar to the trailer for ‘Us’, viewers were upset by the distressing a violent scenes.

“It was on at 6.19pm  it is a horror that is rated R in the US. This is urgent and these horror ads should be pulled off immediately as they are frightening to children and even the music gets stuck in your head,” wrote one complainant.

“Very creepy stuff even for me!”

4. KFC’s Grandma ad

The advertisement features an elderly woman going to sit on a park bench, missing, and landing on the ground. A woman next to her then laughs and exclaims “oh Gran”, and then somehow it becomes about KFC.

Complainants raised issue with the ad’s depiction of elderly people, claiming it was “ageist, sexist, and derogatory”.

“This is very disrespectful to seniors and I don’t consider it funny. It is sending a negative message to young people,” one complainant said.

“Trying to cover up the laughter with ‘Did someone say KFC’ is not acceptable.”

5. Maltesers ‘Best Weekend’ ad

In the 15-second short, two women are discussing their best weekends, eating different amounts of Maltesers while implying the chocolate treats are, in fact, drugs. This upset a number of viewers.

“There is implied reference condoning illicit drug use. More Maltesers are associated with ‘good times’ and the way the chocolates are put in the women’s mouths implies they are like pills,” one viewer noted.

Another viewer completely missed the mark, instead complaining the ad had a highly “sexual nature”.

6. Metamucil ‘The Turd We Deserve’

Viewers took issue with the word ‘turd’ being used in this ad, along with some inappropriate sound effects. The Ad Standards Board correctly noted that ‘turd’ is possibly the least offensive word you could use for faeces.

“The audible use of the word Turd and the visual use of the word Turd. There are plenty of other suitable words that could be used,” one complainant said.

“This word is offensive and considered a swear word.”

(It’s not)

7. Terrie’s Voice Tip

An anti-smoking ad featuring a smoker who lost her voice. Viewers said it terrified their children.

“The ad is scary for younger children and adults alike, like something from a horror movie. I feel offended that someone in this condition is used for an advertisement,” one viewer said.

8. Uncle Toby’s Breakfast Bakes

Viewers took issue with the ad’s depiction of Scottish people and their accents, with the father-son duo in the advertisement confused over the word ‘bake’ and ‘make’.

“I am offended by the manner in which Scottish accents are denigrated in this advert. I consider that making fun of how an entire ethnic groups speaks is offensive and I am certain this would not be tolerated if the advertiser used any other ethnic group that is resident in Australia today,” said one complainant.

9. Honey Birdette’s Valentines Day campaign

Viewers took issue with lingerie being advertised within shopping centres, calling it “provocative” and likening it to “bondage”.

“People have no opportunity of shielding their children from these images. The pictures are provocative and explicit with some images showing a woman’s naked bottom,” said one viewer.

10. Sex health awareness campaign

The billboard ad features two men standing next to each other, each wearing briefs. The words “SEXY HEALTH FOR EVERYBODY. TEST FOR STIs! GET TESTED, GET TREATED, NO DRAMA!” appears below them.

One viewers argued this ad would only be appropriate for “a gay [or] LGBTQ club”, presumably crushing their pearls in the process.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the former features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.