TV advertisement complaints Sportsbet 2018
(Image: Getty Images)

A Sportsbet campaign depicting a man shaving his pubic region has emerged as the most complained about ad in the 22-year history of Australia’s advertising watchdog.

The ad, which aired earlier this year, depicted a naked man from the waist up “manscaping”, prompting a ban from Ad Standards and 793 complaints from outraged Australians. It beat out the previous record holder — a dating ad for married people looking for affairs — which drew 481 complaints back in 2014.

In fact, such is the magnitude of a historic year in marketing-related outrage, that the second-most complained about ad — an iSelect campaign depicting a woman “aggressively” hitting a pinata — also blew past the previous record with 716 complaints.

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In total, more than 6,600 Australians mustered their anger into Ad Standards complaints in 2018, with violence, sex/nudity and discrimination emerging as the top three concerns. Ad Standards chief executive Fiona Jolly described the result as the “biggest year yet” for the regulator, saying it showed a level of community understanding of the advertising code.

But the public doesn’t have a great hit rate. Only four of the 10 most complained about ads were upheld by the Ad Standards Community Panel, resulting in removals. Two of those ads were for films that included violent or horror content, not brands.

So without further ado, here are the most complained about ads of 2018.

1. Sportsbet’s ‘manscaping’

Complaints: 793


The ad depicts a man, from the waist up, “manscaping”, before appearing to cut himself, promoting Sportsbet’s “head to head” bet deal.

“The ad also employs sexual appeal in a manner that degrades a naked young male by encouraging him to waste money on gambling to increase his sexual appeal rather than personal grooming. This sends a false message to young males that gambling will improve their sexual appeal,” one complainant said.

“It is also gross and creepy seeing a naked man behaving as though he is shaving his genitals in my lounge room.”

Issues of concern: discrimination or vilification, exploitative or degrading, violence and sex/sexuality/nudity.

2. iSelect’s pinata

Complaints: 716

Decision: dismissed.

A women “aggressively” hits a rabbit pinata in front of a group of children in apparent frustration with her insurance provider.

“I object to the level of violence and aggression demonstrated by the woman. She had a murderous look on her face. The sound of the stick making contact with the rabbit is unsettling. Advertisement also implies that violence to animals is okay,” said one complaint.

“It goes against current attitudes to violence and anger and portrays women in a negative light, and it is shown during family viewing time,” said another.

Issues of concern: discrimination or vilification, exploitative or degrading violence and sex/sexuality/nudity.

3. Berlei’s boobs

Complaints: 135

Decision: dismissed.

Women playing various types of sport with balls which appear to depict breasts.

“Having naked female breasts is giving young children the wrong message that its ok to show female breasts everywhere. The naked body is private and children should be taught that it is not ok to present the female body in such a way that it degrades women. I have a young daughter and this is sending the wrong message to all young girls,” one complainant said.

“As a female I found the ad offensive calling the breast, part of the human female anatomy, to be boobs,” another submitted.

Issues of concern: discrimination or vilification, exploitative or degrading, violence, sex/sexuality/nudity.

4. Ultra Tune’s Mike Tyson cameo

Complaints: 134

Decision: dismissed.

Three women, who are for no clear reason dressed in animal and maid outfits, swerve to avoid a tiger standing in the middle of the road. They crash, hitting a tree, and are then visited by convicted sex offender Mike Tyson.

Tyson doesn’t even fix the car, and then someone from Ultra Tune shows up to help with the “tiger trouble”.

“This advertisement is exploiting wild animals – in this case a tiger. The very fact that Mike Tyson says he is looking for his tiger Francis is condoning the ownership of wild animals by individuals which is absolutely inappropriate,” said one complainant.

“The story is objectionable, the girls wearing odd costumes & portrayed as helpless. Being rescued by a convicted sex offender is objectionable,” said another.

Issues of concern: discrimination or vilification, exploitative or degrading, sex/sexuality/nudity, health and safety.

5. Universal Pictures’ Halloween trailer

Complaints: 97

Decision: upheld.

Trailer for a horror movie produced by Universal Pictures.

“When young children are still awake. I don’t believe it is something that should be aired before 8:30pm,” one complaint wrote.

“This was quite a scary movie trailer and I feel 6.40pm is far too early to have this on. My 6yo was sitting with me while we were watching the ads between 7 news when it came on. He gets nightmares easily so I have to be careful what he watches,” another complained.

Issues of concern: violence.

This article originally appeared on Crikey’s sister site, SmartCompany. Read the full list here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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