“Girl Math” is Not Giving: Ad Standards Roundup May 2024

Plexus ad roundup may 2024

Advertising material in Australia is largely self-regulated based on rules set by the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics. Brands sometimes outright flout these rules or operate in the grey spaces between the lines, which regularly leads to complaints made by the concerned public and brand competitors.

This is where the Ad Standards Community Panel comes in to review these contentious commercials and makes rulings on whether the material breaches the Code of Ethics. Here’s a round-up of four recent decisions ruled about contentious ads.

Chatime Girl Math Ad

Chatime “Girl Math”

  • The Ad: Chatime loyalty program email with the heading “You still have a half price tea (according to girl math, that’s basically free)”.

  • The Complaint: The casual sexism in the email was offensive and implied that girls cannot do math.

  • The Advertiser's Response: The reference to “girl math” used in the email header was a humorous play on a phrase trending on social media.

  • The Ad Board’s Decision: Upheld – breached AANA Code of Ethics (Discrimination or vilification)

  • Why the Ad Board Came to that Decision: “The Community Panel noted that although ‘girl math’ is used by some as a humorous way to justify purchases, it conveys an inherently unflattering perspective on women and their financial literacy… perpetuat[ing] a negative stereotype that women are bad with money.”

Thorne Harbour Health

Thorne Harbour Health “The Drama Down Under”

  • The Ad: Thorne Harbour Health ran OOH advertising as part of a campaign to raise awareness for men’s sexual health in the LGBTIQA+ community.

  • The Complaint: The image of men, some with nipple rings, in tight underwear is inappropriate and overtly sexualised for a common audience of children.

  • The Advertiser's Response: The undergarments are similar to those worn by models for an underwear brand. The messaging is not sexualised and does not depict sexual acts or nudity. The large banner size and public placement is justified to increase awareness of the issue.

  • The Ad Board’s Decision: Dismissed; the panel agreed with the advertiser’s response.

  • Why the Ad Board Came to that Decision: The advertised product is sexual health testing, which would not be appealing to children. There is only a depiction of partial nudity; the advertiser treated this with sensitivity to the audience because there was no focus on genitals and each man’s pose was not sexual in nature.

Read the full report.
ME Bank

ME Bank “Girl Math”

  • The Ad: ME Bank ran a social media campaign featuring the phrase “Girl Math” to promote their products.

  • The Complaint: The words “girl math” appear on screen then crossed out and replaced with “good math”, implying that maths done by girls is not “good”. This is considered discriminatory language.

  • The Advertiser's Response: The concept of the ad was to leverage a popular and global trend known as “girl math”.

  • The Ad Board’s Decision: Upheld – breached AANA Code of Ethics (Discrimination or vilification)

  • Why the Ad Board Came to that Decision: “Consistent with a previous decision, the Community Panel found that despite the attempt at social media relevance, the ad does promote a negative stereotype that women are not good at maths.”

Read the full report.
Menulog Delivery Ad

Menulog “Delivering Decision…”

  • The Ad: Menulog television spot depicting a Menulog delivery person riding their scooter across a sports field with security chasing after them.

  • The Complaint: The ad depicts unsafe riding.

  • The Advertiser's Response: The ad was intended to show Menulog’s fast delivery services in a fanciful way. It was not believed to be unsafe as the delivery man was depicted wearing a high-visibility vest and a helmet, which was compliant with AANA code of ethics for bike riders.

  • The Ad Board’s Decision: Dismissed

  • Why the Ad Board Came to that Decision: There were no other people on the field other than the security guard, the rider was not driving erratically and was wearing appropriate safety gear. The ad was light-hearted and did not encourage unsafe riding behaviours.

Read the full report.
“Brands must carefully consider the placement of their ads and whether it is achieving attention from their target audience. There may be members of the public who are particularly sensitive to the goods or services being advertised.”

Belle Delpirou, Lawyer at Plexus

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