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List of Australia's Most Complained About Ads in 2021 (So Far)

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The Ad Standards Community Panel has released a list of the top ten most complained about advertisements in Australia for the first six months of 2021.

A total of 496 complaints were recorded, which apparently is the lowest ever recorded.

Ad Standards said about the list, "This year’s list of advertisements received 496 complaints between them, the lowest recorded in the history of Ad Standards’ reporting on mid-year case and complaint statistics. Seventeen advertisements have already been withdrawn this year after advertisers voluntarily modified or discontinued the offending content."

"Overall, Ad Standards has received 2,245 complaints to 30 June, with 639 of these contributing to the 162 cases assessed by the Community Panel under one or more of the advertising Codes and Initiatives."

The most complained about advertisement was for Crazy Domains, which depicted a man urinating on a building. Out of all of the top ten complaints, three were upheld and the rest were dismissed.

You can read the full list with details on the Ad Standards page or scroll down to view the list with videos and complaints made below.
(Viewer discretion advised obviously)

10. Reckitt Benckiser (Finish Australia)
Issues of concern: AANA Environmental Code 1 – Truth and Factual, 3 – Substantiation

The television ad depicts people using water in various different situations, with a voiceover stating facts about water usage in Australia and the #FinishWaterWaste initiative.

Complaint: "No research is offered to back up the claims, no detail on how you could check if Finish is really donating water or how you contact them. No mention of how you clean large pans and wipe down bench tops etc etc without a hot sink of water. In fact for the majority of households these days using a dishwasher regularly would use much more water than a couple of sinks full a day, but using a child's voice is manipulative at making people feel guilty."

9. eHarmony
Issues of concern: 2.4 – Sex, sexuality or nudity, 2.6 – Health and safety

The television advertisement has four versions featuring various couples.

Complaint: "The advertisements are too graphic wth the promotion of sex. E Harmony can advertise the product without the explicit scenes. Market the product to be inclusive of all people wanting to meet and leave it there. These commercials were on whilst the family was watching the pro surfing Saturday morning. The commercial appeared and two people are in bed etc etc."

8. Volvo Car Australia
Issues of concern: FCAI 2(d) – Fatigue-drugs-alcohol, Code of Ethics 2.6 – Health and safety

The advertisement features various scenes of parents running around after children. It then shows a woman falling asleep behind the wheel of a car and the car automatically engaging the Lane Keeping Aid.

Complaint: "This is disturbing and will lead to people driving when tired and relying on technology to save them. Driving tired is as bad as driving drunk - this ad does not meet community standards."

7. KIA Automotive Australia
Issues of concern: FCAI 2(a) – Unsafe driving, FCAI 2(b) – Breaking the speed limit

The advertisement shows three vehicles driving together and simultaneously performing a J turn.

Complaint: "The ad featured loud tyre squealing and aggressive driving which was incongruent with the car featured and jarring instead of funny. The tyres squealing caused us to look outside as it sounded like a car accident. We live on a busy road and the sound invoked danger."

6. Universal Pictures (The Conjuring – The Devil Made Me Do It)
Issues of concern: 2.3 – Violence

There are two versions of this advertisement promoting the movie “The Conjuring – The Devil Made Me Do It”.

Complaint: "This trailer was extremely distressing with scenes in this trailer (horror, and violence) that were graphic and really scary for children under the classification/restricted viewing ages, who may also be viewing the programming on air during that slot."

5. Huddle Insurance
Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.5 – Language, 2.6 – Health and safety

There are three versions of this advertisement, two featuring a woman and her niece and one featuring a woman by a pool.

Complaint: "The ad encourages demeaning young women & is offensive that an older woman or person would think that it is acceptable or aspirational. They refer to her not being the smarter one of her sisters and tell her not to speak up."

4. IAG Insurance
Issues of concern: 2.6 – Health and safety

The advertisement documents two children’s actions to save the Koalas’ homes after discovering a number of trees have been marked for removal. This television advertisement features children discovering that trees have been marked for removal. The children put up signs to raise awareness that the trees are also the koala’s home. The advertisement ends with the trees no longer marked for removal.

Complaint: "Nothing matters more than teaching our children to be safe and honest - not giving them permission to undertake criminal acts. This ad uses children to carry out a dangerous and criminal act - undoing the legitimate work of adults by removing markers. What other markers will children think it is OK, or smart, or clever, to remove??? what needs to be removed is the ad. Where are the brains of these advertisers or those in charge of this at NRMA?????"


3. South Australia Police
Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.5 – Language 

 The advertisement follows a young man driving home from a pub. He passes a number of situations consistent with drink driving and in his interior monologue he can be heard calling himself a ‘selfish prick’ for drink-driving. 

Complaint: "At the end of the ad there is both written text using the term 'prick' and also verbal use of the same term. This is a vulgar word, which, by using it in an ad can now be perceived as being a term that can be used in public. The term used, is directed at male drink drivers - so what do we call a female drink driver? 7.30am! Some children are having breakfast and getting ready to play sport. The 'idiots' they are directing the ads at are still in bed hungover! The use of the specific term does not need to be used."

2. Aussie Broadband
Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.5 – Language, 2.6 – Health and safety

There are multiple versions of this advertisement showing people in their gardens using a hose. The words ‘freaking’ and bloody’ are used.

Complaint: "Aussie broadband internet advert. They keep saying “ bloody good broadband “ I find this can be and is inappropriate due to small children picking up bad saying that is being promoted by this advert using the catch phrase “ bloody good broadband." 

1. Crazy Domains
Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.4 – Sex, sexuality or nudity, 2.6 – Health and safety

The advertisement depicts a man urinating on a building. In the 30 second version a group of men are out at night, looking dishevelled and it appears they have been drinking. One of the men splits off from the group and walks towards a building. The name of the business is visible. The sound of a zipper being undone is heard, and a stream of urine can be seen splashing on the ground and his shoes, and running down the building. He hums to himself. He finishes and walks back to his friends. The words, "The real world sucks for business. You're better off online" appear on the screen.

Complaint: "It offensive, bad taste, irrelevant to product and against the law As society standards continue to diminish, this ad is reaching an all time low. Do we need to see a man urinate against a wall. This ad was shown twice in PG viewing times. My child was home to see it. It is offensive and degrading, showing men urinating outdoors whilst drunk. It is continuing a sterotype. It is degrading to gentleman and completely unneccessary."

Image Credits: Youtube