Ads featuring disgraced actor Charlie Sheen and a family being hunted down by their zombie counterparts have angered television viewers most this year.
The nation’s advertising regulation body this week revealed the adverts that attracted the most official complaints.
The Universal Pictures advertisement for the horror film Us has courted the most furore, with 244 disgruntled viewers complaining that it was too violent to be shown on television.
The high volume of complaints did not lead Advertising Standards to ban the ad, ruling that it did not contain gruesome acts of actual violence.
Roadside assistance company Ultra Tune’s Sheen-starring ad has been slammed as sexist, and ordered to make content alterations – but the man behind the campaign said the ruling was “PC madness”.
The ad showed scandal-plagued Sheen on a boat with a group of women soaked in water. It drew 161 complaints between January and June.
Ad Standards initially dismissed the complaints, but an independent reviewer overturned the ruling.
The complaints centred over Sheen, who has amassed a reputation of domestic violence accusations, plus controversial headlines around sex and drug addictions.
Concerns were also flagged the ad was out of step with community standards about how the media should portray women.
But Ultra Tune marketing manager Rod Cedaro said the fact people thought the advert was worth complaining over was “lunacy”.
“It’s an indication of political correctness gone mad,” he told The New Daily.
“People are way too oversensitive. Channel Ten is running Two and a Half Men (which also stars Sheen) which is far more sexual, and they’re happy to show that.
“One of the complaints was how the women are sexualised. They are in full clothes. You can see more if you go down on the beach.”
In regards to Sheen’s starring role, Mr Cedoro said they had chosen him because of his controversial status, and said the actor’s detractors weren’t being fair.
“He’s done more for the AIDS movement since his diagnoses than everyone else ever. He’s flashed the light on AIDS more than what the World Health Organisation has done,” he said.
“No one has condoned his past behaviours but he doesn’t drink any more. He keeps a very low profile. We haven’t put OJ Simpson in an ad.”
As Dr Lauren Rosewarne from the University of Melbourne argues, Sheen is not only a “figure from the past” but his appearance on the ad is out of step with societal views.
“He’s a figure who has been widely accused in Hollywood in the #MeToo era. While he hasn’t been pilloried in the same way that many celebrities have … he is widely accused.”
She said it was not surprising the ad had received complaints about sexism – because it is.
“The women aren’t included to make the product seem good or valuable, rather they are there as eye candy,” she said.
“Add to this, the women in this advertisement are presented as ditzy clichés. Add to this, the women are quite literally damsels in distress.”
For many companies, a complaint to Ad Standards is almost “a badge of honour”, she argues.
“For some companies, having an extensively complained about ad is a badge of honour: helping to frame their company as cutting edge and subversive,” she said.
The Ultra Tune and Us adverts were well ahead of the other eight most complained about ads, with the third spot going to Paramount Pictures’ Pet Sematary, which generated just 29 complaints.