According to Ad Standards, the industry’s self-governing standards body, the ad by Sleep Clinics Albury Wodonga depicted a man and a woman at the movies and also in bed, with the man asleep and snoring loudly.
In one instance, the woman is seen elbowing the man in the ribs, while in another, she pushes him out of bed, so that he falls to the floor in an uncomfortable position.
Another scenario depicts the woman groaning while grasping her wrist.
It said that a voice over timed to coincide with the various actions said “On edge? Bruised ribs? Slight concussion? These are some of the symptoms which could to lead to serious consequences. Public ridicule; lack of sleep; self-injury”.
The voice over concluded by stating, “So save yourself and your loved one”.
A spokesperson for Ad Standards told My Business that “less than five” complaints were received about the ad, which aired in Victoria.
One of these complaints, quoted in the determination, said:
“The ad shows a man who has sleep issues. It shows his partner elbowing him in the stomach at the movies, then pushing him out of the bed and hitting his head. He is then kicked out of the bedroom. In these sensitive times, I find this offensive as the woman's behavior [sic] demeans, humiliates, embarrasses and physically abuses her partner. Had the roles been portrayed in reverse, where the woman had sleep issues and the man elbows his partner and gets pushed out of bed, there would have been an outcry over violence against women. Therefore, everything [being] equal, the ad should show a man with sleep issues be assisted by his partner to get help without the humiliation and physical abuse.”
Panel rules in complainants’ favour
The Ad Standards panel which investigated the complaints determined the ad was in breach of section 2.3 of the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ (AANA) Code of Ethics.
That section states that “advertising or marketing communication shall not present or portray violence unless it is justifiable in the context of the product or service advertised”.
The body noted that the scenarios portrayed by this advertisement “could be very serious”.
Furthermore, it said: “There is significant community concern relating to the issue of domestic violence, and that a depiction of a woman physically abusing her partner was in contrast with this concern.
“The panel noted that the basic premise of the advertisement relating to a snoring partner is a common scenario in many homes; however, the panel considered that the depiction of the woman resorting to physical harm on her partner to address this common matter is not in line with prevailing community standards”, and was therefore not justifiable.
Ad already removed
The Ad Standards determination noted that while Sleep Clinics Albury Wodonga did not participate in the investigation, it responded to the ruling by stating, “Thank you for your response and [providing a] copy of the findings. Please be advised the ad has already been removed from the tv [sic] and a new commercial has been made”.
Sleep Clinics Albury Wodonga was approached for comment.
Last month, Ad Standards revealed its list of the 10 most complained about ads in Australia in the first half of 2019, three of which related specifically to concerns about the portrayal of violence.
The full AANA Code of Ethics, and its various other codes relating to advertising standards, can be found on the association’s website.