A television advertisement from gambling business Sportsbet has been banned by the advertising watchdog for inappropriate nudity, but one expert believes the purpose of the advertisement has already been served.
The free-to-air TV ad features a man grooming his genital region before being interrupted by a voiceover promoting a Sportsbet deal.
The advertisement sparked multiple complaints to the advertising standards board, with one complainant saying it was inappropriate for the man to be nude and shaving given the time it was airing.
According to the case file, the advertisement was given a ‘B’ rating by Free TV Australia and was not permitted to be broadcast between 5.00am and 8.30pm, during children’s programming.
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“Im am disgusted that this ad is being shown when at this time children are watching it is highly inapropriate [sic] and very embarrassing what does a sport bet have to do with a man shaving his genital region highly innapropriate [sic],” the complainant said.
Another complainant said the advertisement portrayed violence given the man presumably cuts himself with the razor when being startled by the voiceover.
Sportsbet denied all claims the advertisement breached the Advertising Code of Ethics, saying in its response the ad is meant to be a humorous and light-hearted way of promoting its products.
“The premise of the advertisement is to depict in a light-hearted manner a typical situation in which someone is interrupted when they would have no reasonable expectation of the interruption, such as in the privacy of their own bathroom, in order to promote a Sportsbet offer,” Sportsbet said.
“Sportsbet regrets if the jovial nature of the advertisement was either misconstrued or may have offended the complainants, but we firmly reiterate our view that the advertisement does not breach the Code.”
In reaching their decision, the Ad Standards panel considered whether the advertisement breached Sections 2.1, 2.3, 2.4 and 2.5 of the Advertising Code of Ethics, which refer to how discrimination, sexuality, nudity and violence is portrayed in advertising. In addition, the panel also considered whether the advertisement breached Section 2.7 of the Wagering Advertising Code, which prohibits marketing material from linking wagering to “sexual success or enhanced attractiveness”.
The panel found the advertisement did not depict gender discrimination, violence, inappropriate language or any connection between wagering and sexual success. However, the advertisement was found to be in breach of not treating nudity with sensitivity.
“The Panel considered that the suggestion of nudity and the depictions of the man in the advertisement amount to a level of sexuality which was inappropriate for a broad audience which would include children,” the panel said in the case decision.
“Following significant deliberation, the Panel determined that the advertisement did not treat the issue of sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant broad audience and determined that it did breach Section 2.4 of the Code.”
In response to the determination, Sportsbet pulled the advertisement and replaced it with another that was given approval by Free TV Australia.
This is the second time in two years the company has had one of its campaigns banned by the watchdog – in 2017, the board found a campaign that featured Canadian athlete Ben Johnson made light of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport.
When contacted by SmartCompany, Sportsbet said it had no further comment to make on the decision.
All publicity is good publicity
Professor Lauren Rosewarne, lecturer at the University of Melbourne, tells SmartCompany nudity is commonly complained about in advertising, and Sportsbet is fully aware of the guidelines it must abide by.
“While it might be expected that companies new to advertising would be unaware of the Advertising Standards Board and the AANA Code of Ethics used, Sportsbet is not such a company: it has been advertising on television for several years,” Rosewarne says.
“It is impossible, therefore, to imagine that they would not be aware that the Advertising Standards Board regularly upholds up complaints about ads featuring nudity.”
Rosewarne believes Sportsbet were aware of how an advertisement with blatant focus on nudity would be received, both by the general public and by the advertising watchdog. As a result, Rosewarne suggests that by airing this advertisement, Sportsbet got more publicity out of the campaign through more than just its TV ad.
“Arguably Sportsbet knew that their ad would likely be pulled and therefore, they got to benefit from it’s initial airing, benefit from the extra publicity for the rest of us talking about the ad, and then benefit again from the ad possibly going viral online.”
“The lessons, therefore, are minimal and I suspect that Sportsbet would consider the ad having served its purpose.”