Don’t Trip Over Trends: Ad Standards Roundup June 2024

28 June 2024

Plexus ad roundup june 2024 header

In times of societal turmoil, advertisers need to be mindful of how things are presented to prevent reputational damage. For those who walk the fine line between clever and crass, it’s down to the Ad Standards Community Panel to review complaints made by the public.

While many contentious advertisements are addressed before the Ad Standards Community Panel, others are held accountable by society at large. The inherent ethical and moral self-regulation of an increasingly conscious population, combined with the rapidity of social media has allowed for the most egregious content to be called out.

Big Picture People Ad

Big Picture People – “Are You Guys Staying for Lunch?”

The Ad: Big Picture People is a custom home cinema retailer. They ran a TV commercial portraying a group of men in a home theatre watching a horror film depicting a woman wielding a knife, then a woman enters the home theatre holding a large kitchen knife. Dialogue follows, “are you guys staying for lunch?”

The Complaint: The timing of the commercial was inappropriate due to a spate of recent knife attacks in Australia, namely the Bondi Junction and Wakeley church incidents in April.

The Advertiser's Response: No response

The Ad Board’s Decision: Dismissed

Why the Ad Board Came to that Decision: While the depiction of threatening behaviour with a knife could upset people affected by similar crimes, the Panel considered that the depiction of people watching a horror movie in a home cinema was justifiable in the context of promoting home cinemas.

Read the full report here.

Hismile Ad

Hismile – “Did My Stepmom Leave Something On?”

The Ad: At-home oral care company Hismile posted a TikTok video advertisement promoting an electric toothbrush by using a first-person view of reaching into a drawer emitting a vibrating sound. A caption is overlaid on the video reading “Did my stepmom leave something on” paired with the “flushed” and “imp smile” emojis. The audio voiceover also included bleeped-out cursing.

The Complaint: The ad breaches ethical standards by potentially promoting child abuse, incest, and using pornographic themes to sell the product.

The Advertiser's Response: “The Ad does not create the impression that the Step mom is neglecting her parental responsibilities and exposing her kids to sexual material and sexual abuse.”

The Ad Board’s Decision: Dismissed

Why the Ad Board Came to that Decision: The panel found that while there was some degree of innuendo and implied strong language, the general TikTok audience was unlikely to find offence.

Read the full report here.

Pickle My Chili Ad

Pickle My Chili – “Julia” and “Vanessa”

The Ad: Hot sauce company Pickle My Chili made several posts on Instagram promoting their sauces, some of which are named after women such as “Julia” and “Vanessa”. The photos display the product next to a woman wearing revealing clothing, accompanied by captions using suggestive language such as “titillate” and “penetrate”.

The Complaint: The posts are considered to objectify women.

The Advertiser's Response: “In both ads the girls appear relaxed and comfortable, they are appropriately dressed. The script is funny and relevant to the product.”

The Ad Board’s Decision: Upheld – breached Section 2.2 of the AANA Code of Ethics: “Advertising should not employ sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative or degrading of any individual or group of people.” Pickle My Chilli modified the caption and removed all offending copy.

Why the Ad Board Came to that Decision: “The advertisement did employ sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative or degrading of an individual or group of people.”

Read the full report here.

Honey Birdette Ayah Ad

Honey Birdette – “All Eyes On Ayah”

The Ad: Lingerie company Honey Birdette launched a new range in late May called “Ayah” and sent a marketing email with the subject line “ALL EYES ON AYAH!”

The Complaint: This advertisement was not presented before Ad Standards. Journalist Soaliha Iqbal called out Honey Birdette on her social media, pointing out that the subject line co-opted the phrase “All Eyes On Rafah”, a trending topic that highlighted the humanitarian crisis in Palestine.

The Outcome: Honey Birdette, who has previously had at least 68 upheld complaints made against them to Ad Standards, faced numerous angry comments on their social media channels about the “Ayah” campaign. Comment sections were closed on posts made during that period; comments have since been re-activated for their latest posts. Feed posts advertising “Ayah” have seemingly been removed.

Learn more about this incident here.

“Companies should avoid capitalising on trending topics to gain visibility and must tread carefully to avoid inadvertently promoting insensitive or inappropriate content. Avoiding the risk of potentially permanent reputational damage should far outweigh the temptation to pursue short-term financial or attention gains, which aren't always guaranteed."

Alana Caiafa, Lawyer at Plexus

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