The first ad to show menstrual blood on Australian television has disgusted so many viewers that it has become one of the most complained about in the nation.
More than 600 people lodged complaints about the ad’s “graphic” and “degrading” content, with some viewers even calling for those responsible to be fired.
Despite the fierce backlash, the regulatory advertising body has dismissed all of the complaints and ruled the ad did not breach the industry’s code of ethics.
Personal hygiene company Asaleo Care, which makes Libra sanitary pads, ran its #bloodnormal campaign that shows women and young girls managing their periods in prime-time slots last month.
The ad showed scenes of blood dripping down a woman’s legs in the shower, and a teenager removing a blood-stained pad from her underwear.
Among the complaints made to Ad Standards, the body that handles complaints against the advertising industry, included accusations Libra’s ad was “absolutely offensive and degrading to all women”.
“The images portrayed in the ad are disgusting and demeaning to women,” said one viewer.
“Libra and Channel Ten deserve staff to be sacked over this, as well as (pay) fines, in my opinion.”
Other viewers blasted the ad as “confronting” and “inappropriate”, especially for young children who saw the ad played in the breaks of a “family program like Survivor“.
“I am absolutely appalled that Libra has chosen when I was to talk to my seven-year-old little girl about periods,” wrote one complainant.
“As a civilised person, I feel like I want to throw up as I don’t want to see menstrual blood,” said another.
The watchdog’s community panel acknowledged the ad upset some viewers, but ultimately ruled that the depiction of bodily fluids did not breach the code and that “bad taste” fell outside its code of ethics.
The #bloodnormal campaign now ranks as the third most complained about ads in Ad Standards’ history.
First place is held by last year’s SportsBet ad, which showed a man naked from the waist up presumably trimming his pubic hairs to promote the gambling company’s “head to head” bet deal.
Nearly 800 people complained about the ad, voicing concerns around sexuality, nudity, violence and health and safety, topping a previous record held by online dating site Ashley Madison for its 2014 ad aimed at married people looking to have an affair.
Some 481 people lodged complaints against Ashley Madison’s ad, which showed a group of men singing the jingle, “Looking for someone other than my wife,” to the tune of the Climax Blues Band’s 1976 song Couldn’t Get it Right.
The Ads Standards community panel initially backed the controversial ad, arguing that disgruntled viewers were offended by the service being advertised rather than the content of the ad.
However, six months later, after receiving an “unusually high number of additional complaints”, the board overturned its decision.
It found that the phrase “other than my wife” singled out wives as a group of people and sent a strong message that “wives were inadequate or somehow lacking and that this suggestion was degrading to wives”.
Second place is held by a television ad for iSelect insurance agency in 2018 that attracted 715 complaints for showing a woman aggressively hitting a piñata in front of a group of children.
Most of the complaints, dismissed by Ad Standards, were about the ad’s depiction of anger and violence in front of young children.
Following Libra’s ad for sanitary pads in fourth place is Universal Studios’ trailer for the horror film Us, which received 244 complaints for being too violent when it was played on free-to-air television earlier this year.
The ad features a family in a house being scared by figures outside, as well as a series of scenes including a man on the beach in a mask and a person holding scissors.
In fifth place is this year’s ad by Ultra Tune featuring disgraced actor Charlie Sheen on a boat with a group of scantily clad women soaked in water.
The ad was slammed as sexist and drew 161 complaints between January and June this year.