Infidelity dating website Ashley Madison has again stirred the ire of viewers with its advertising material, prompting the company to modify the suggested “violence” in its latest ad.
The TV commercial features a ‘zombie’ woman gripping a baseball bat as she stares at her husband. The couple then view an Ashley Madison ad on TV and transform back to normal, as the tag line reads: “AshleyMadison.com. Bringing your marriage back to life.”
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The ad inspired a series of complaints to the Advertising Standards Board.
“Prescription to violence is what this country is fighting against,” complained one viewer.
And the board upheld the complaints, finding the ad breached the Advertising Standards Code by presenting violence that is not justifiable in the context of the product or service advertised.
Yet the majority of the complaints submitted to the board centred on the promotion of extra marital affairs, not violence.
“It’s pretty obvious but surely our morals have not declined this much that we now need to advertise having an affair,” said an angered viewer.
“Apart from the zombie look being a little gruesome, it depicts marriages as dead and just going through the motions. It depicts to act out physically/emotionally with someone other than your partner,” mused another.
However, the board found there was no restriction on such a service being available or promoted in Australia, rather only on how it is promoted.
The board instead took issue with the “significant community concern regarding the issue of domestic violence”, finding the baseball bat scene was “clearly suggestive of the woman’s intent to cause harm to the man”.
In response to the decision, and in a statement provided to SmartCompany, Ashley Madison said it was “very pleased” the board confirmed there was no restriction on Ashley Madison’s service being available or being promoted in Australia.
“Moreover, we are pleased that the Board determined that the Zombie commercial in question is in compliance with the Advertising Code as it relates to its treatment of sex and sexuality with sensitivity to the relevant audience,” said Ashley Madison.
However, Ashley Madison has modified the ad by removing the baseball bat scene in response to the board’s ruling.
“While the scene in question is a play-off of the entire ‘Zombie’ theme of the commercial, and by no means meant to be suggestive of violence, we are sensitive to the concerns,” the company said.
Ashley Madison said it “look[ed] forward” to running the modified ad, which now complied with the code, as noted by the board.
But it’s not the first time Ashley Madison has caught the eye of the ad watchdog, with one of its previous ads winning the title of the most complained about ad of last year.
Michelle Gamble of Marketing Angels told SmartCompany there is a significant section of the community that finds the business’ services offensive.
“They don’t have to do much to have people complain about them,” Gamble says.
“And they have to be very careful as a result of that.”
Gamble says there is currently an important national conversation on domestic violence taking place and the issue should be treated very sensitively by advertisers.
“[The ad] is not terribly wise, given the scrutiny already on brand. Viewers already have a distaste for the brand and using an inference of domestic violence is in poor taste,” she says.