The complained about ad was for a cake
mix. It featured two girls in the playground eating lunch side by side. The one
asks what the other is biting into and she tells her it’s a bakery treat. The first
then launches into a diatribe about her perfect mum who bakes everything
herself from scratch. Once she completes the diatribe the second girl says her
mum also likes the “real home baked taste” before adding the punch line “but at
least she’s got a life,” indicating the product offers her a short-cut which
allows her to get on with other things. Following complaints by some
stay-at-home mums this last line was cut from the ad when it next appeared on
I showed this to several groups of women and they responded by
expressing their displeasure and annoyance. Not at any offence caused by the
ad, but by its censorship. And the most vocal of these were stay-at-home mums.
“Who are these people who complain?” one asked.
They found the ad cute and funny. It reflected their many
compromises in life as they juggle their many responsibilities. And while they
would ideally love to cook each meal from scratch, in reality the short-cuts
available are great helpers in fitting everything in.
The result was an increase in affection for the brand, which
was now the underdog due to censoring.
The Advertising Standards Bureau has just released its’ list
of the most complained about ads of 2011. Foremost on the list, with 222
registered complaints was a billboard ad for Rip & Roll condoms featuring
two men, one nuzzling the other’s neck.
In a recent study I asked young people in their 20’s about
their favourite ad. This very one was mentioned most often. Not because it was
clever or funny or even all that creative, but because it was censored and
Young people believe in a culture of acceptance more than
any other segment of Australians. There is nothing controversial about being
gay or lesbian and the depiction of such a lifestyle in popular media makes
perfect sense to them. They cannot see what the fuss is about, just as, for the
most part, they cannot understand why gay and lesbian marriages are not a norm
Australians get angry when the views of a vocal few impact
on their lives. The Parents Lobby, for example, which has campaigned for a ban
on advertising unhealthy foods to children, is poorly regarded by most mums for
pushing their views which they see as “extreme.”
This does not mean that all advertising is acceptable to the
Australian public. Some things push the boundary too far. In particular, anything
which is racist, demeans women or projects children in a sexualised manner, for
example, is universally unacceptable.
The problem for those seeking to ban advertising for reasons
that are not widely accepted, is that by doing so they offer these ads greater
publicity and, as with the Rip & roll ads, make them more popular than