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The most complained about ads of 2019 so far

Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti
03 July 2019 2 minute readShare
Us horror movie

Australia’s Ad Standards body has revealed the most complained about advertisements so far this year, among the thousands of complaints it had processed prior to 30 June.

Sex, sexuality and nudity featured prominently among the major themes causing offence, as did discrimination or vilification. Yet it was a televised movie trailer for an American film that garnered the highest number of protests relating to scenes of violence.

According to Ad Standards, the ad was for Universal Pictures’ horror movie Us (pictured).

“It features a family in a house being scared by figures outside and a series of scenes including a man on the beach in a mask, and a person holding scissors,” the industry’s self-governing regulatory body said.

“The audio in the advertisement features the mother’s voice saying, ‘We need to move and keep moving. They won’t stop until they kill us, or we kill them’.”

Criticism was directed at the inclusion of a child appearing “horrified”, and a holidaying family appearing to be killed by a pair of scissors.

In fact, free-to-air television ads accounted for eight of the top 10 most complained about ads.

A not-so-distant second was a TV commercial by Ultra Tune Australia which showed a group crashing their car into the sea, before boarding actor Charlie Sheen’s boat to call Ultra Tune for assistance.

Concerns were raised that it was degrading to women and portrayed them in an overly sexualised manner, as well as conveyed stereotypes about the abilities of drivers by gender.

“Just over 2,000 complaints” were processed by the body over the period, it said.

Earlier this year, Hanes Brands was cleared of breaching advertising standards over an advertisement that depicted talking bras.

The full list of the 10 most complained about ads in Australia in the first half of 2019 is listed below, together with the grounds of complaint and determination by Ad Standards:

  1. Universal Pictures: TV film trailer for movie Us. 244 complaints about violence, dismissed.
  2. Ultra Tune Australia: TV ad. 161 complaints about sex/sexuality/nudity, health and safety. Initially dismissed, but upheld on appeal. Ultra Tune said it would modify the commercial.
  3. Paramount Pictures: TV film trailer for movie Pet Sematary, including scenes depicting characters wearing animal masks. 29 complaints about violence, dismissed.
  4. Yum Restaurants International: TV ad for KFC depicting a grandmother falling while trying to sit on a park bench. 19 complaints of discrimination or vilification, dismissed.
  5. Mars Wrigley Confectionary: TV ad depicting three women discussing their favourite weekends, including at musical festivals, before eating Maltesers. 19 complaints about sex/sexuality/nudity and suggested condoning of illicit drug-taking, dismissed.
  6. Procter & Gamble: TV ad about Metamucil and the phrase “The turd we deserve”. 17 complaints about language, dismissed.
  7. SA Health: TV ad encouraging smokers to quit, incorporating a woman speaking with an artificial voice box about cancer. 17 complaints of violence, dismissed.
  8. Nestle: TV ad for Uncle Tobys Breakfast Bake, depicting a Scottish man talking to his son while eating porridge, with the son unable to understand what his father is saying. 14 complaints about racial discrimination or vilification, dismissed.
  9. Honey Birdette: A poster for Kukuro lingerie featuring a woman dressed in lingerie leaning on a motorbike. 14 complaints about sex/sexuality/nudity, health and safety, upheld. According to Ad Standards, the advertiser did not respond to panel during or after its hearings.
  10. Thorne Harbour Health: A billboard for sexual health testing featuring two men dressed in underwear with the phrase “Sexy health for everybody. Test for STIs! Get tested, get treated, no drama!”. 11 complaints about sex/sexuality/nudity, dismissed.

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The most complained about ads of 2019 so far
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Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the former editor of MyBusiness and a senior freelance media professional, specialising in the fields of business, personal finance and property. In 2020, he also embarked on his own business journey – inspired in part by the entrepreneurs and founders he had met through his journalistic work – with the launch of customised pet gifting and subscription service Paws N’ All.

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