Sun-Herald - Sunday 19 December 2004

Vulgar, violent ads are a turn-off

By Daniel Dasey

Violence against animals, insensitive parents and overt sexuality were the themes most likely to upset Australians in 2004, a study of our most complained-about commercials has revealed.

The analysis of which advertisement drew the most flak - conducted exclusively for The Sun-Herald - also reveals we have little tolerance for domestic violence, speeding and vulgar images.

But the most complained-about commercials were not necessarily those withdrawn.

The Advertising Standards Bureau agreed to a request to analyse the complaints it received in the year up to December 17.

The bureau conducts hearings into commercials that members of the public find offensive, and the advertising industry and advertisers were asked to abide by its rulings under a self-regulatory system.

The bureau's statistician, Neale Apps, said sexual themes had dominated the list of complaints. "It's quite obvious that the main issue that concerns the public is the portrayal of sexuality and/or nudity," he said.

"The second major issue is discriminatory portrayal of people on the basis of gender, religion or race."

Cruelty to animals and irresponsible motor vehicle use also featured highly.

The top 10 most complained-about ads were all television commercials.

An advertisement screened at the time of the State of Origin rugby league games and depicting cane toads being struck with golf clubs was the most criticised commercial, with nearly 200 complaints received.

Viewers objected to the apparent cruelty to animals and the advertisement was withdrawn voluntarily.

The second most complained-about commercial shows a father and son grinning widely as the engine revved on their Holden Commodore Alloytec V6.

Some commercials attracted complaints for a second year running.

The infamous Tooheys Extra Dry commercial showing a disembodied tongue attracted more than 30 complaints, despite being dealt with by the board last year.

A Lever Rexona commercial from 2003 showing a man falling through his shower floor onto a dance studio received more than 15 complaints.

The board upheld complaints against other commercials including those for Holden, BMW, Toyota, Fuji film and Mitsubishi.


1. Lion Nathan/Tooheys New Men hit live cane toads over the Queensland-NSW border using golf clubs. 180+ complaints, voluntarily withdrawn.

2. Holden Commodore Alloytec V6 Father and son grin as the father guns the engine of his vehicle. 60+ complaints, dismissed (pictured, top left).

3. AA Premium Copy Paper Woman climbs onto a photocopier and accidentally causes a photocopy to be taken of her underpants. 60+ complaints, dismissed.

4. Inghams Couple try to give away their children so they don't have to share their roast chicken dinners. 40+ complaints, dismissed.

5. Lion Nathan/Tooheys Extra Dry Man's tongue leaves his mouth while he is asleep and seeks out a beer. 30+ complaints, dismissed (pictured, left).

6. Office of the Status of Women Domestic violence victims talk about their experiences. 30+ complaints, dismissed (pictured, below left).

7. VW Polo Woman looks in the rear-view mirror at a man's crotch. 20+ complaints, dismissed.

8. Wizard Homeloan A beast referred to as a mortgage is shaved and spanked.

20+ complaints, dismissed.

9. Lever Rexona/Lynx A man falls through his shower floor into a dance studio filled with women. 15+ complaints, dismissed.

10. Bendon Women depicted wearing underwear and holding knives. 15+ complaints, dismissed.

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