What Ad Standards Said Before They Hung up on me

Several weeks ago, I made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Board about an ad on the side of a bus featuring the website for a hardcore porn site. After waiting a few weeks for their response, during which time the ad remained in place, the ASB advised me they had already dismissed complaints for this particular advertisement. They found the image was not in breach of the code. I immediately wrote back and asked if they could re-open the discussion given the content of my complaint had not mentioned the image, but the promotion of a porn site.

After a week, I decided to call the ASB directly to ask about their review process. I spoke to Case Manager Nikki Paterson, who advised me that given I wasn’t one of the original complainants, I could not ask for a review. This is a technicality invented by the ASB to prevent people challenging their determinations. If a bus is driving around advertising live sex shows, shouldn’t any member of the public have the right to call this advertising into question?

Advertising live sex shows on buses "not a breach of the code" says ASB

I explained to Ms Paterson that while I wasn’t one of the original complainants, given my complaint was on the basis of advertising a pornographic website- an area not considered by the board in its determinations- that I felt it was reasonable to go back and review this.  Ms Paterson responded that the board had determined no part of the ad was in breach of the code. This didn’t sound right to me, so I pushed the issue. I asked, so advertising live sex shows on the side of a bus isn’t in breach of the code? She said it was not.

Ms Paterson went on to argue that there was “nothing inappropriate” about the website (in terms of the wording) and that advertisers (the sex industry) were allowed to name their sponsor. Even if their sponsor is a pornographic website?

I responded that anyone can look up a website that is being promoted on a bus, just as I had. That is its very purpose in being included in promotional material- otherwise why is it there? Anyone, including children, I reminded her, could easily access live footage of young women being penetrated with objects. How was this okay?

I offered to send her the link to the website so she could see for herself the content that the ASB was permitting to be advertised, but reminded her she probably wouldn’t be allowed to open it at work.

Ms Paterson said that if I was going to keep looking up websites in featured in advertising I was “going to get offended” at some point.

I asked her if she was really suggesting the problem here was merely one of offence- something taking place in my head, my being offended- that I find women being penetrated with objects offensive, rather than the fact that this material is being advertised on public buses?

It was about this time that she hung up on me, mid-sentence. 

This is ad industry self-regulation. The ASB believes advertising live sex shows on public buses that drive past schools is not a breach of codes. Sex industry dollars count for much more than community wellbeing.

Enough is enough.


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