A Sportsbet campaign depicting a man shaving his pubic region has emerged as the most complained about ad in the 22-year history of Australia’s advertising watchdog.
The ad, which aired earlier this year, depicted a naked man from the waist up ‘manscaping’, prompting a ban from Ad Standards and 793 complaints from outraged Australians.
It beat out the previous record holder — a dating ad for married people looking for affairs — which drew 481 complaints back in 2014.
In fact, such is the magnitude of a historic year in marketing-related outrage, that the second-most complained about ad — an iSelect campaign depicting a woman “aggressively” hitting a pinata — also blew past the previous record with 716 complaints.
In total, more than 6,600 Australians mustered their anger into Ad Standards complaints in 2018, with violence, sex/nudity and discrimination emerging as the top three concerns.
Ad Standards chief executive Fiona Jolly described the result as the “biggest year yet” for the regulator, saying it showed a level of community understanding of the advertising code.
But the public doesn’t have a great hit rate. Only four of the 10 most complained about ads were upheld by the Ad Standards Community Panel, resulting in removals. Two of those ads were for films that included violent or horror content, not brands.
So without further ado, here are the most complained about ads of 2018.
1. Sportsbet’s ‘manscaping’
The ad depicts a man, from the waist up, ‘manscaping’, before appearing to cut himself, promoting Sportsbet’s “head to head” bet deal.
“The ad also employs sexual appeal in a manner that degrades a naked young male by encouraging him to waste money on gambling to increase his sexual appeal rather than personal grooming. This sends a false message to young males that gambling will improve their sexual appeal,” one complainant said.
“It is also gross and creepy seeing a naked man behaving as though he is shaving his genitals in my lounge room.”
Issues of concern: discrimination or vilification, exploitative or degrading, violence and sex/sexuality/nudity.
2. iSelect’s pinata
A women “aggressively” hits a rabbit pinata in front of a group of children in apparent frustration with her insurance provider.
“I object to the level of violence and aggression demonstrated by the woman. She had a murderous look on her face. The sound of the stick making contact with the rabbit is unsettling. Advertisement also implies that violence to animals is okay,” said one complaint.
“It goes against current attitudes to violence and anger and portrays women in a negative light, and it is shown during family viewing time,” said another.
Issues of concern: discrimination or vilification, exploitative or degrading violence and sex/sexuality/nudity.
3. Berlei’s boobs
Women playing various types of sport with balls which appear to depict breasts.
“Having naked female breasts is giving young children the wrong message that its ok to show female breasts everywhere. The naked body is private and children should be taught that it is not ok to present the female body in such a way that it degrades women. I have a young daughter and this is sending the wrong message to all young girls,” one complainant said.
“As a female I found the ad offensive calling the breast, part of the human female anatomy, to be boobs,” another submitted.
Issues of concern: discrimination or vilification, exploitative or degrading, violence, sex/sexuality/nudity.
4. Ultra Tune’s Mike Tyson cameo
Three women, who are for no clear reason dressed in animal and maid outfits, swerve to avoid a tiger standing in the middle of the road. They crash, hitting a tree, and are then visited by convicted sex offender Mike Tyson.
Tyson doesn’t even fix the car, and then someone from Ultra Tune shows up to help with the “tiger trouble”.
“This advertisement is exploiting wild animals – in this case a tiger. The very fact that Mike Tyson says he is looking for his tiger Francis is condoning the ownership of wild animals by individuals which is absolutely inappropriate,” said one complainant.
“The story is objectionable, the girls wearing odd costumes & portrayed as helpless. Being rescued by a convicted sex offender is objectionable,” said another.
Issues of concern: discrimination or vilification, exploitative or degrading, sex/sexuality/nudity, health and safety.
5. Universal Pictures’ Halloween trailer
Trailer for a horror movie produced by Universal Pictures.
“When young children are still awake. I don’t believe it is something that should be aired before 8:30pm,” one complaint wrote.
“This was quite a scary movie trailer and I feel 6.40pm is far too early to have this on. My 6yo was sitting with me while we were watching the ads between 7 news when it came on. He gets nightmares easily so I have to be careful what he watches,” another complained.
Issues of concern: violence.
(Warning: graphic and disturbing content.)
6. BCFing Guns
Super Retail Group’s Boating, Camping and Fishing business copped some criticism over its BCFing Guns ad, which doesn’t actually depict any guns, but nonetheless outraged many.
“It’s like a subliminal message for the gun group. Why are they singing about guns? I don’t understand it and I don’t like it,” said one confused complainant.
The BCF advert makes reference to the word ‘fucking’ without using the full word, as said in ad ‘it’s BCeffing fun’,” another said, taking issue with another aspect of the ad.
Issues of concern: violence, sex/sexuality/nudity, language, health and safety.
7. Specsavers’ fake research
Specsavers created a fake research company and asked “subjects” how much they would sell their eyes for.
“My objection is that there are black markets in the world that deal in the buying and selling of body parts – I find it offensive that a company uses such a heinous criminal activity as a legitimate marketing ploy,” one complaint wrote.
“I am a person who is totally blind. This ad has caused great offence to the blind community. In this ad, the participants are discussing the value of vision, and in so doing, lamenting the tragedy of blindness and all the reasons life would be unbearable if they were to lose their sight. This is insulting to people who are blind or vision impaired, as it implies that their lives are not valuable, and lack meaningful experience,” another said.
Issues of concern: discrimination or vilification, violence.
8. YouFoodz tries “doin’ it”
An awkward looking couple sits on a couch, revealing how they “do it” to their friends, neighbours and even parents. They aren’t talking about bonking through, it’s all about YouFoodz because people totally cook ready-made meals with your neighbours. Totally.
“The commercial has used wording which clearly are [sic] used to give the impression they are talking about all the places they have sex, and they have obviously used this language to grab peoples attention, however I feel it is inappropriate and offensive,” one complaint said.
Issues of concern: sex/sexuality/nudity, violence.
9. KFC’s naked Mum and Dad wrestling
The ad shows a teacher showing a drawing to two parents done by their child, which is a crudely drawn image of “Mum and Dad naked wrestling”. To diffuse the situation, the mother says “Did someone say KFC?” and the scene switches to the two eating.
“Inappropriate messages about sex and sexuality at a time when they are not being taught in school sex education programs. There is no parent permission or approval for young children to be exposed to sexual connotations,” said one complainant.
Issues of concern: sex/sexuality/nudity.
10. Venom, the movie
And last but not least, Sony Pictures’ Venom trailer, which was criticised for being violent.
“My children, who are 10 and 11 are quite distressed every time this ad comes on, which is every ad break. They are shocked at the timing of this advertising and have asked me to submit an official complaint,” one complainant said.
“I hate horror movies and these images are scaring me and making me feel very uncomfortable and gross,” another said.
Issues of concern: violence.
(Warning: Marvel motion picture content.)