Professor Sandra Jones from the Centre for Health Initiatives at Wollongong University, has the best line: ” On the one hand they are saying they want to give consumers a voice and show advertisers boundaries, yet on the other they continue to dismiss complaints about these ads.”
JULIAN LEE MARKETING EDITOR
December 16, 2009
THE company behind the longer lasting sex billboards has emerged as the advertising industry’s serial pest of the year after three of its ads made it into the top 10 most complained about ads of 2009.
Yet despite attracting 160 complaints, between them none of the ads fell foul of the self-regulatory advertising watchdog which decides if ads using sex or nudity as a selling point should be removed.
The 10 most complained about ads have generated 650 complaints so far this year, according to the Advertising Standards Bureau.
Complaints were upheld against just two of them; one for Target breached health and safety guidelines because it showed people getting in and out of a clothes dryer; another for Coca-Cola featuring pole dancers promoting casual sex was axed because it vilified women. Complaints about the other ads, including one featuring topless women, were dismissed.
The bureau chief executive, Fiona Jolly, said the figures were proof that the advertising self-regulatory system was ”robust”. ”It gives consumers a voice and lets advertising know about boundaries,” she said.
But industry observers said the bureau was sending mixed messages. ”On the one hand they are saying they want to give consumers a voice and show advertisers boundaries, yet on the other they continue to dismiss complaints about these ads,” Professor Sandra Jones, from the Centre for Health Initiatives at Wollongong University, said.
”It’s clear that they are not giving consumers a voice nor are they really showing advertisers the boundaries.”
Ms Jolly defended the decisions her board had reached on the sex ads, for Advanced Medical Institute, saying that it had banned some of them this year but just not those that attracted the most complaints. She said some people objected to the product itself – in this case a treatment for impotence delivered via the nose – rather than the ad, and so their complaints fell outside the bureau’s remit.
Next year, the bureau will ask consumers if the board is interpreting correctly a section of its code that says ads should ”treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience and, where appropriate, the relevant programme time zone”. Billboards will receive particular attention because they do not discriminate in terms of audience or time zones.