Aussies love a good whinge. And sometimes, it’s for good reason.
Ad Standards is the self-regulatory body that decides whether the nation’s complaints about advertising are dismissed or upheld. It then has some powers to have ads modified or removed.
In 2022, Ad Standards investigated more than 250 ads that raised issues under the advertising industry codes. Around 50 ads were found to be in breach of the rules.
“We’ve seen a high proportion of complaints this year about advertisers using sexual appeal or violence in their marketing campaigns, which some members of the community have found offensive and unacceptable,” says Ad Standards executive director Richard Bean.
“We have also acted on a number of complaints that raised concerns about discrimination being depicted in advertising.”
Ads seen on free-to-air TV prompted the highest number of complaints again this year, followed by Instagram and TV on-demand services.
Gambling ad takes out top spot
The most complained about ad in 2022 was work from PointsBet that featured Shaquille O’Neal and Australian comedy duo the Inspired Unemployed speaking in exaggerated Australian colloquialisms.
While some submissions took issue with what they saw as role models promoting gambling to youth, more were unhappy with phrases like “get a dog up ya!”
“This particular ad elicited a strong response from some viewers who were concerned that it was offensive and insulting to Australians, particularly young men,” says Bean.
Ad Standards decided the complaints did not stand.
“While the Ad Standards Community Panel acknowledged these concerns, they found the ad contained self-deprecating humour which would be seen by most to celebrate Australians rather than ridicule them. It was therefore found not in breach of the rules.”
Top five most complained about ads of 2022
In their own ways, these ads irked the Australian public.
- PointsBet – Free-to-air TV ad
This television ad features Shaquille O’Neal and the Inspired Unemployed speaking in exaggerated ‘Aussie’ accents.
Main concern: Discrimination or vilification Number of complaints: 42
- Nimble Australia – Free-to-air TV ad
This television ad features a man named “Bill Shock” whose mouth is wide-open throughout the ad.
Main concern: Discrimination or vilification
Number of complaints: 24
- Uber Eats – Free-to-air TV ad
This television ad features Paris Hilton and the Irwin family. A scene suggests that a snake has eaten a chihuahua.
Main concern: Violence
Number of complaints: 23
- Gotham City House of Sin – Billboard ad
This billboard ad for a brothel features a woman wearing black lingerie.
Main concern: Sex, sexuality, and nudity; exploitative or degrading sexual imagery
Number of complaints: 21
- Universal Pictures – Free-to-air TV ad
This television ad promoted the film ‘The Black Phone’.
Main concern: Violence Number of complaints: 18