Unsafe driving, chainsaw violence and grandpa "balls" - advertisers have been keeping the Australian Ad Standards Bureau on its toes this year. We've gone through their archives and put together a list of the TV commercials that have been ruled unfit for broadcast since the start of 2012.
Banned ad No. 1 - Compare Travel Insurance
Sample complaint sent to the Ad Standards Bureau: "There is a scene where the obese "RISK" man is lying on top of the traveller covered with a towel and being massaged by an Asian woman who is displaying utter disgust and repulsion towards the obese man and the act of massaging him - this is reinforced by a close up of her fingers on his skin and her face looking repulsed by the same. This image clearly promotes that is somehow acceptable to treat people who are obese different to other people who are not obese and that in fact they are disgusting and repulsive in particular so to touch."
Ad Standards Bureau ruling: "The majority of the Board considered that the woman's reaction demeaned overweight people and that the advertisement therefore depicted material which discriminated against people on account of being overweight and therefore breached section 2.1 of the Code." (Read full decision here)
Compare Travel Insurance response: "The TV ad was last screened 22nd January (placement was 4 weeks starting 25 December). We do not currently have any TV time booked. It is our intention to modify the ad prior to any future screening."
Banned ad No. 2 - Lynx Body Wash
Sample complaint: "It is not clever advertising but rather immature banter akin to schoolyard talk. It has nothing to do with the advertising of the product and is totally unnecessary and demeaning to men. If the topic was woman's breasts there would be outrage. Not funny not clever just feral."
Ad Standards Bureau ruling: The board found that the ad's sexually suggestive content was not in breach of its code. It also ruled that the ad did not include strong or obscene language or degrade women.
However, it did find that it was discriminatory towards older men, because of a scene which referred to a man's "old saggy balls".
"The Board considered that the older man is depicted in a negative manner with the inference in the advertisement being that the older man does not receive any attention due to his age. The Board considered that this is a negative depiction of an older person and that this depiction does amount to discrimination against older men." (Read full decision here)
Lynx Body Wash response: "We are disappointed by the Advertising Standard Board‟s determination ... The men who appear in the commercial are representative of a wide range of age groups, from young to old, and all of them are portrayed in a humorous and good-natured way. It was never the intention of the commercial to discriminate against elderly people." (Read full response here)
Banned ad No. 3 - Suzuki Swift Sport
Sample complaint: "The commercial portrays irresponsible driving behaviour. The storyline is set up as a sort of race/time trial theme. The car races through the car park appears to be frequently going too fast.
"On a number of occasions the car appears to lose traction as it fish tales around the corners including a loss of traction as it enters a parking bay at the end of the commercial."
Ad Standards Bureau ruling: "The Board noted that at the start of the advertisement we see the driver pressing his foot on the accelerator pedal followed by a view of the tachometer showing rapidly increasing engine revolutions.
"The Board noted that whilst there is no independent verification of the actual speed of the vehicle, in the Board's view the combination of the firm depression of the accelerator pedal, the increase in engine revs and the sped up footage combine to give an overall impression of reckless speed which the Board considers to be a depiction of unsafe driving." (Read full decision here)
Suzuki Australia response: "Whilst Suzuki Australia do not believe that the Swift Sport television commercial breaches the FCAI code, we have considered the board's determination and concerns regarding the images of the accelerator pedal and the tachometer and will be modifying the commercial to remove these scenes."
Banned ad No. 4 - Subway Chicken 'Fillet'
Sample complaint: "I want to raise a problem with I think is false advertising of a food product from Subway. I purchased a chicken fillet Subway roll and when I got it home I was disgusted to find after
biting it that it is in fact a processed chicken piece.
"My understanding of a chicken fillet is a fillet of chicken not processed chicken meat. I am very annoyed at this as it should not be advertised as a chicken fillet sub when it is not."
Ad Standards Bureau ruling: "The Board noted that the prevailing community standard on what a fillet of chicken is, does not include chicken presented in pieces or formed or processed chicken meat.
"In the Board‟s view, most members of the community would associate chicken fillets with the breast or thigh portion of the chicken in one whole piece or as a cut of chicken rather than reconstituted into a particular shape." (Read full decision here)
Subway response: "As indicated, all advertising of the $7 Subway Footlong® Chicken Fillet advertising has ceased including TVC, outdoor and POP material. As of Monday 25th June, the www.subway.com.au website is being modified to change name from Chicken Fillet to Chicken Classic. As of Monday 30th July, the instore menus are being updated to change the name from Chicken Fillet to Chicken Classic." (Read full response here)
Banned ad No. 5 - Ultra Tune Australia
Sample complaint: "Our family lost 5 members in a accident which they drowned. They were driving a silver Ford Falcon. As you can understand this is upsetting to us and other people as well who have suffered this kind of tragedy."
Ad Standards Bureau ruling: "The Board noted that the intention of the advertisement is to set a scene that is realistic and familiar to drivers across Australia.
"The Board considered however that the behaviour of the girls trivializes the fact that they are not paying attention to the road and one of the girls is heard to say “not again!” This adds strength to the argument that the girls have possibly been involved in a similar incident and have not learnt or changed their behavior as a consequence of their actions.
"The Board considered that there is a very serious and genuine community concern regarding road safety and issues surrounding negligent driving and that the behavior of the woman driving was contrary to community standards on safe driving." (Read full decision here)
Ultra Tune Australia response: "We are obviously disappointed with the determination. However, we are making amendments to the advertisement in question." (Read full response here)
Banned ad No. 6 - Volvo V60
Sample complaint: "This ad unambiguously depicts behaviours which would be both illegal and dangerous on a public road. It shows excessive speeds for the conditions and drifts which clearly indicate loss of appropriate control of the vehicle. This is clearly deliberate risk taking for which any responsible police office would charge the driver."
Ad Standards Bureau ruling: "The Board noted that whilst there is no independent verification of the actual speed of the vehicle, in the Board‟s view the combination of the drifting and the sped up footage gives an overall impression of reckless speed which the Board considers to be a depiction of unsafe driving.
"The Board determined that the image of the vehicle doing a sudden 180 degree turn is a depiction of driving that, if it occurred on a road, would be considered to be driving in an unsafe or reckless manner that would breach the law anywhere in Australia." (Read full decision here)
Volvo response: "On a no admissions basis, we have decided to undertake the following actions in light of the Board's determination:
"1. To modify the Advertisement so that material showing the car “being driven quickly around corners and drifting or sliding around these corners” has been eliminated. The ”combination of drifting and sped up” footage has been eliminated, and the 180 degree has been amended such that the turning of the car is no longer a 180 degree turn and does not portray a driving activity that would be considered unsafe or reckless.
2. To immediately remove the Advertisement from all forms of television, such that it will not be shown after 21 May 2012.
3. To cause to be shown on all forms of television as of 22 May 2012 to the modified advertisement (amended as per paragraph 1).
"We trust that the above actions are satisfactory."
Banned ad No. 7 - National Stroke Foundation
Sample complaint: "This advertisement is very disturbing in its comparison of an illness suffered by many people in the community and comparing it to that of a crazed serial killer. It does not educate. It shows graphically human brains being violently destroyed. This ad is very disturbing to myself as an adult, let alone children."
Ad Standards Bureau ruling: "The Board noted that the advertisement is very confronting and is intended to be alarming in order to draw the attention of the audience to the message being delivered. The Board noted that the advertisement is the first step in a strategy designed to raise awareness about stroke
and the impact it can have and that the Board does allow a higher level of violence in advertisements with a strong public health message.
"In the Board's view the advertisement presents violence in a manner that is not justifiable in the context of the product being advertised." (Read full decision here)
National Stroke Foundation response: "The decision to take the approach that we took was not made overnight nor taken lightly. After more than ten years of tireless campaigning to ensure services are available to reduce the impact of stroke on all Australians, a recent survey showed that only 6% of people thought it was a health concern.
"It was never our intention to cause upset or cause distress to viewers and we will certainly take this feedback on board and modify the advertisement to meet the advertising standard guidelines." (Read full response here)
Banned ad No. 8 - Holden Colorado
Sample complaint: "I have participated in 4wd activities for over 25 years and all 4wd clubs and associations will not permit the attachment of a recovery device to a towball. I believe that this ad may give the wrong information to those that may not be fully aware of correct vehicle recovery techniques with possible fatal consequences."
Ad Standards Bureau ruling: "The Board noted that the workers standing near were in very close proximity to the vehicles and in the event that the tow chain should come off the tow bar, they would be in
"In the Board’s view most members of the community would consider that the method used
and apparent lack of attention to safety during the assisted tow was a depiction that was
contrary to community standards on health and safety." (Read full decision here)
Holden response: "As stated in our earlier submissions, Holden takes its legal responsibilities, the AANA
Advertiser Code of Ethics and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries Voluntary Code of Practice for Motor Vehicle Advertising very seriously.
"On being notified of the complaints above, Holden took immediate steps to review the Advertisement and consider the issues raised via the ASB." (Read full response here)
Banned ad No. 9 - Star Track
Sample complaint: "I have recently viewed the latest advert for a company called ‘Star Track Express’ which
shows a young girl driving along in a car as a passenger and hanging out of the passengers
window in the front seat unrestrained.
"My concern is other children may mimic things that he has seen on TV and this would be one that I hope they don't."
Ad Standards Bureau ruling: "The Board noted the advertiser’s response that the child is restrained by a lap style seat belt that would be appropriate to the apparent age of the vehicle. The Board considered however, that it is almost impossible to tell if the belt was fastened or not and that even so, there was a
significant portion of the girl’s torso that was protruding outside of the vehicle.
"The Board considered that as the actions of the girl look as though she is enjoying herself and having fun, it is possible that the same actions or similar may be mimicked by other children." (Read full decision here)
Star Track response: "I wish to advise you that we have made the necessary arrangements to remove offending scene and republish the advertisement. StarTrack will release the new advertisement by 23
Banned ad No. 10 - Peugeot 4008
Sample complaint: "While it is impossible to prove the driver was speeding in the scene just after the
man in the white shirts screams out ‘yeah’ (because there are no posted Speed Limit signs) the vehicle is seen being driven dangerously into a sharp corner where there are double white lines. The vehicle can be seen sloping sideways at about 20 degrees. At this speed it could easily slide off the road into the path of oncoming vehicles or roll over."
Ad Standards Bureau ruling: "The Board determined that the advertisement did not depict an unsafe driving practice that would breach the law ... [but] the Board noted that the advertisement shows a scene where the Peugeot is being driven along a seaside road with a female passenger.
"The Board noted that at one point there is footage of the passenger in the front of the vehicle with her arms waving above her head and her right arms is temporarily outside of the vehicle. The male driver is laughing loudly and seemingly unaware of the actions of the passenger.
"On the above basis, the Board determined that the advertisement does depict an action which would breach a Commonwealth law." (Read full decision here)
Peugeot response: "Please be advised we are currently revising the Peugeot 4008 advertisment so that it complies with the FCAI Code and the Code of Ethics. In particular, we are removing the "footage of
the passenger in the front of the vehicle with her arms waving above her head and her right arm is temporarily outside of the vehicle." (Read full response here)
Banned ad No. 11 - iSelect
Sample complaint: "Even though it may be a laptop the inference of using an electrical computer whilst in a spa bath containing water is both dangerous & foolish. Some people particularly children may believe that it is 'normal' to use electrical devices whilst in a bath.
"It’s just dangerous & implies unsafe behaviours they should think more before designing such a dangerous advertisement!"
Ad Standards Bureau ruling: "The majority of the Board ... considered that the depiction of the man using an electrical appliance in water is a depiction of behaviour that is potentially unsafe – even if the
laptop is operating on battery power. The majority of the Board considered that although the advertisement is unrealistic, the depiction of the man using the laptop in the spa is the focus of the advertisement." (Read full decision here)
iSelect response: A disappointing result. To reiterate, we considered this execution to be pure fantasy. Iselect does not support or condone potentially dangerous/unsafe behaviour in any way. We are no more suggesting that electronic mobile devices are used near water than suggesting that you should share a spa with your boss, fully clothed, in his office, talk to him on a mobile while he's 2 feet away, while not getting wet and finding ice creams under hot water. This advertisement will not be aired after Wednesday 11 January 2012.
Note: there was one other banned TV ad this year, produced by Leading Edge Telecoms. Footage of the ad was no longer available online. A full description of the ad and the reasons it was banned are available here.
Do you think it was a good idea for these ads to be banned? Leave a comment below.