An advertisement from food delivery business Youfoodz has fallen foul of Australia’s advertising standards due to the use of the word “forking” as a substitute for a similar swear word.
The advertisement, which ran on television and is still available on the Youfoodz YouTube account, features a young child with a similar appearance to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, claiming that Youfoodz products are “un-forking believable”.
“How long do you think this took me to cook? What? Try two forking minutes,” the child says in the ad.
The ad garnered a number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) from viewers, with complainants expressing the belief the ad was was “totally inappropriate”.
“The boy was using the term ‘forking’ in what was a clear reference to the term ‘fucking’ and we consider this totally inappropriate for the timeslot,” one complainant wrote.
“On two seperate [sic] occasions the young boy used the word forking (to replace fucking) to the extent where my wife and I were convinced he had actually said fucking. This is family time television and definitely makes out that this is acceptable language for young people to use,” wrote another.
The ad apparently ran alongside the television show ‘The Block’, which airs at 7:30 PM on Channel Nine.
In a response, the advertiser claimed the ad did not feature inappropriate language for the timeslot, saying “this advertisement does not include any strong or obscene terms”.
“The advertisement does feature the word ‘forkin’ in a light-hearted, tongue in-cheek manner that is appropriate in the context of a kitchen, and that we sell ready-made meal company and a fork is needed to consumer our meals. It is not used in conjunction with offensive imagery or in an aggressive way,” the advertiser said.
However, the board sided with complainants, agreeing the language used in the ad was inappropriate for a child to be using and for children to be hearing, despite conceding the advertisement was playing on the “well known” behaviour of chef Gordon Ramsay.
“The use of a young boy saying a word which sounds very much like a strong swear word increases the impact of the implied language and is not appropriate in the circumstances,” the board said.
“The majority of the Board however noted that whilst most members of the community would not expect a child to actually say the word “fucking” in a television advertisement, in the
Board’s view the way the young boy says the word “forkin’” makes it sound very close to the strong swear word it is clearly imitating.”
The complaints were upheld and the company was ordered to take down the ad, instead airing a modified version where the word “forkin” is replaced with a loud bleep.
Advertisers advised to play it safe on swearing
Speaking to SmartCompany, director at InsideOut PR Nicole Reaney says advertisers have been presented with an array of differing positions from the ASB on language in advertising in recent years due to it being difficult for the regulator to “draw a clear line”.
“There are so many variables that come into play – from timing, talent, use of words, and scripting. The ASB does like to allow brands the ability to meet their creative goals and considers societal impact within that,” she says.
“There is a degree of risk whenever swearing is used in a campaign – a brand opens itself up to complaints from various pockets of the community. In broadcast media – the risk is higher as children can listen and repeat wording.”
“Using a child as talent in this campaign was probably not the wisest choice – as children imitate their peers and the use of swearing is not an acceptable community norm.”
SmartCompany contacted Youfoodz but did not receive a response prior to publication.
The original advertisement in question can be viewed below.