Entertainment TV ‘You can’t air that!’ Australia’s most complained about ads of the year revealed
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‘You can’t air that!’ Australia’s most complained about ads of the year revealed

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This shocking advertisement by burger chain Grill'd was among the most complained about ads of 2021. Photo: YouTube
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Australians don’t mind a cheeky ad – but it seems we have our limits.

Ad Standards, the country’s advertising complaints adjudicator, has revealed that unhappy viewers sent more than 4500 complaints in 2021.

It’s a jump of almost 33 per cent from 2020 – perhaps due, at least in part, to millions spending too much time locked down and in front of screens.

But it’s still a drop from 2019 when Ad Standards fielded 5500 complaints.

The ads that sparked viewer outrage aired across a variety of platforms and on free-to-air TV.

Executive director Richard Bean said top concerns in 2021 were “about sex, sexuality and nudity, followed closely by health and safety, then discrimination and vilification”.

“The vast majority of Australian advertisers understand the importance of creating responsible ads and comply with the rules and community panel decisions,” he said.

So, which ads angered us the most? The companies that received slaps on the wrist ranged from a well-known burger chain to a lingerie brand.

Sparking the most complaints, with a whopping 285, was an ad from online domain name registrar company Crazy Domains.

Entitled Don’t Get P—ed On – It’s Better Off Online, the 30-second video shows a man urinating on the outside of a building on a night out.

As he walks away from the scene of the crime, the words “The real world sucks for business. You’re better off online” flash on the screen.

Ad Standards’ panel reviewed the advertisement, noting that the 30-second clip depicted “illegal, unhygienic behaviour” and breached the health and safety section of the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ code of ethics.

Next on the list was a series of ads by Aussie Broadband, in which 114 viewers took issue with the use of the words ‘bloody’ and ‘freaking’.

In the string of advertisements, a family is seen happily gardening with functioning hoses while their neighbour is unable to get more than a trickle out of his own hose.

“It’s bloody good having fast-flowing internet,” the ad says. “But if you don’t have it, you can get it by switching to Aussie Broadband.”

“It only takes minutes to sign up for freaking fast internet.”

The panel dismissed these complaints, saying the advertisements did not use ‘strong or obscene language’.

Hot on Aussie Broadband’s heels was a menacing advertisement by burger chain Grill’d, which logged 88 complaints.

As reported by The New Daily, the 15-second and 30-second versions of the campaign depicted a Ronald McDonald lookalike appearing to expose himself to two kids in a dark alleyway.

The shocking video prompted a barrage of complaints, with the panel concluding it breached the AANA’s code of ethics for violence and sexuality.

Following the backlash, Grill’d promised to change the ad to address the concerns.

A surprise entrant to the list was a free-to-air advertisement from South Australia Police. It prompted 50 complaints, although they were ultimately dismissed.

The clip followed a man leaving a pub and driving home. As he drives past a booze bus, a vulnerable road user, an ambulance and a crash site on his way home, viewers can hear his thoughts, as he realises he is a “selfish p—k”.

Libra’s 2019 advertisement, which showed a range of period-related products, still holds the title for ‘most complained about ad’, racking up an eye-boggling 738 complaints from viewers that year.

To find out more about Ad Standards or to lodge a complaint, visit adstandards.com.au .