There are some things in life that are certain – Boxing Day sales, stocktake sales, and now, shockingly sexist Ultra Tune ads.
True to form, three free-to-air Ultra Tune advertisements have made the ASB’s 2017 most-complained-about ad list so far. Ultra Tune ads top the list with 357 complaints.
In 2016 the ASB confirmed that ‘discrimination or vilification’ is consistently the most complained about the issue of concern, along with sex, sexuality, and nudity. Despite this, the only complaint to be upheld from the current top 10 list is a Sportsbet ad. It featured Ben Johnson, a disgraced gold medallist from the 2008 Olympics. It was upheld on health and safety grounds.
Ultra Tune’s ‘Unexpected Situations’ campaign shaped the 2017 entries. The advertisements feature two hapless women in need of a man to solve their problems. They replicate the sexist ad that also found Ultra Tune in the hot seat last year. Last years Ultra Tune ads feature two women in a car which breaks down on train tracks – the ad was found to violate the code due to discriminative, exploitative and degrading themes as well as sex, sexuality and nudity grounds. Yet, while Ultra Tunes sexist ads continue, similar complaints were dismissed this year.
The companies number one complained about 2017 ad featured two women using a fire extinguisher to put out a car fire. In dismissing complaints, the ASB felt it did not breach sections regarding discrimination or vilification, exploitative and degrading depictions, sex/sexuality/nudity depictions nor health and safety breaches. The question then becomes, what does? A close-up shot of bouncing backsides, low angle shots of soaked white singlet tops reminiscent of wet T-shirt competitions from the 80s and shots of women being drenched with oil apparently do not breach any part of the advertising code.
Despite being a company that supposedly provides car engine maintenance, Ultra Tune ads consistently feature close ups of not engine parts but female body parts.
It would be easy to assume that Ultra Tune feels tight fitting latex suits, low cut singlet tops and high cut shorts are compulsory requirements when advertising mechanical services.
Neither woman in the ads appears to have even a rudimentary knowledge of what makes an engine tick, using clichéd facial expressions and throwing their hands up in shocked disbelief whenever anything goes wrong. True to tested Ultra Tune form, there is a chap close by to come to their aid.
The cartoonish nature of the advertisements has been used by Ultra Tune in its defence of the campaign’s content. It suggests that no one with a sense of humour should find something to complain about. Drawing upon a 2016 ABS upheld complaint, Ultra Tune says it has learnt from past experience.
“Following upon the Board’s decisions last year in respect of Ultra Tune’s advertising, Ultra Tune has sought by its most recent advertising to avoid any depiction of women as unintelligent or unaware of their surroundings.”
In the ASB ruling report Ultra Tune observed that “…in particular, with the Muffler advertisements (which is clearly intended as hyper-realistic and comedic), Ultra Tune has striven to avoid that particular negative stereotype”.
But, according to CEO Sean Buckley the only problem with the Ultra Tune ads is “do-gooders jumping up and down about the campaign”.
Join Collective Shout if you are sick of Ultra Tune’s sexism. And remember, there are some things in life that are certain.
Judy McCue has worked in the media, marketing and education. She has been around long enough to still think that two of the best things that ever happened to women in Australia (after the Pill of course) was two books. 'Damned Whores and God's Police' and 'The Female Eunuch'. Thank you, Anne Summers and Germaine Greer.