The advertising watchdog has ruled against a television commercial that ridicules men with premature ejaculation problems for the second time this year.
In September, the Advertising Standards Board upheld a complaint against the Advanced Medical Institute advertisement, ruling the ad vilified or discriminated against men with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation conditions.
The ad features a number of women in bed announcing to their male partners that they are not happy with their premature ejaculation problems, before going out on a balcony in their lingerie to shout that they can’t take it anymore.
A man with a megaphone responds to the women, telling them that instead of getting upset, they should look at AMI’s treatment options for their partners.
AMI revised the advertisement in response to the board’s ruling but the modified version of the ad also attracted complaints from offended viewers, who described the commercial as “absolutely unacceptable” and “inappropriate and rude”.
“In my opinion, the ad implies that the men are at fault over a very serious physical and psychological issue,” said one complainant.
Another complainant said premature ejaculation could “be advertised more tastefully and not so early”.
“Watching this in front of [a] 13-year-old is uncomfortable, especially during a family movie,” said the complainant.
“Commercials such as these refrain our kids from spending time in front of the TV or leaving embarrassed at watching this content with us. We were watching The Man in the Iron Mask.”
AMI responded to the complaints, saying the ad was predominantly aired between midnight and dawn, with “some limited airing between 9.30pm and midnight” during shows with adult themes, and did not contain explicit languages or references.
“The current advertisement is a significantly toned down version of the prior advertisement,” said AMI.
“The ad is not seeking to be critical of persons in any way. On the contrary, it is trying to encourage people to seek assistance for this important issue.”
But the Ad Standards Board found the modified ad “was not sufficiently different in impact” to the earlier version and breached Section 2.1 of the advertising code of conduct as it “amounts to a depiction which ridicules men with sexual performance issues and implies that these men should be thought less of as a result of their condition”.
Jack Vaisman, founder and chief executive of AMI, told SmartCompany the advertisement has been discontinued and he has no choice but to “comply” with the board’s ruling.
Vaisman says he does not want to advertise in a way that breaches any standards or “sounds vulgar or sounds sexy” but previous attempts to appeal to men in “a polite way” have not worked.
“Nice, beautiful advertising doesn’t work at all,” Vaisman says.
“It doesn’t appeal to the way the men’s brain is set up.”
Vaisman says 80% of the callers to AMI come from its television advertising and finding a way to continue to advertise on TV will be a “challenge”.
But Michelle Gamble from Marketing Angels told SmartCompany the problem with the ad is it contains “insensitive content”.
“If you’re partner did act in that way you would be hurt.”
However, Gamble says the advertisement “must have been working” for AMI to re-run the spot.
“Maybe they were trying to avoid the cost of making another ad but it must have been working for them to have taken the risk.”
This is not the first time the Ad Standards Board has upheld complaints against AMI, which it ordered to take down large billboards advertising for “longer lasting sex” in 2008.
The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission has also kept a close eye on the company, which the consumer watchdog said in 2011 had failed to inform customers it went into administration in late 2010.
Gamble says the case points to the potential need for financial penalties for advertisers that consistently breach of the code, such as rental van company Wicked Campers.
“It seems to me the Advertising Standards Board is a little bit toothless,” Gamble says.
“We have these discussions every day but the penalties [for repeat offenders] are not strong enough. There really is no punishment.”