For Immediate Release: Ad Standards ‘most complaints’ list highlights self-regulation failure

Ad Standards has released its ‘most complained about’ list for the first half of 2020 with Ultratune and KFC the two most objected to. Collective Shout led campaigns against both these ads.

UltraTune’s Baywatch-themed ad, featuring Pamela Anderson and Warwick Capper, re-enforced regressive gender stereotypes. It attracted 309 complaints. The car servicing company has a long-history of sexist depictions of women.

KFC’s Zinger Box ad portrayed a young female festival-goer adjusting her cleavage in the reflection of a parked car window while ogled by young boys in the car with their mother. This ad received 187 complaints. Our criticism of KFC for profiting from sexism attracted extensive global media attention. KFC offered a pseudo apology. 

Despite 497 complaints against the two ads Ad Standards dismissed all of them - while claiming to reflect community standards.

Missing from the list is Honey Birdette, which is surprising given complaints have been upheld 46 times against its pornified portrayals of women in its window displays in shopping malls, and that Ad Standards has issued rulings on 11 Honey Birdette ads this year alone. We wonder whether the company’s non-appearance in this list has anything to do with the fact that Ad Standards has increasingly refused to consider additional complaints.

Collective Shout Campaigns Manager Melinda Liszewski said that the self-regulated advertising industry harms community interests.

“Ad Standards gives the illusion of regulation. But as its own ‘most complained about’ list shows, demeaning, sexist ads aren’t regulated. They’re actually endorsed,” Liszewski said. 

“Even when complaints are upheld there are no penalties for non-compliance. So Honey Birdette, for example, can continue to refuse to comply.”

In our submission to the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics Review, we documented the myriad failings of self-regulation. A new draft code is to be released in August. We hope it will serve community well-being rather than the vested interests of advertisers. 

July 4, 2020

Media contact:

Melinda Liszewski @melliszewski

[email protected]

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