Most complained about ads of 2022

Dec 16th '22

Ad Standards, which handles complaints about advertising in Australia, has revealed the ads people complained about the most this year along with the top issues of community concern.


Ad Standards Executive Director Richard Bean said that Ad Standards investigated more than 250 ads in 2022 that raised issues under the advertising industry codes, with around 50 ads found in breach of the rules.


“Australia’s advertising codes exist to make sure ads on all media are responsible and align with community standards. While most comply with the rules, there are some ads that cross the line – and that’s where we step in,” Richard Bean said. “We’ve seen a high proportion of complaints this year about advertisers using sexual appeal or violence in their marketing campaigns which some members of the community have found offensive and unacceptable. We have also acted on a number of complaints that raised concerns about discrimination being depicted in advertising.”


Other issues covered by the rules include offensive language, health and safety and distinguishable advertising. There are also specific rules for advertising to children, food and beverages, environmental claims, wagering and motor vehicle advertising.


Ads seen on free-to-air TV prompted the highest number of complaints again this year, followed by Instagram and TV on-demand services.


The most complained about ad in 2022 was for a wagering service that featured Shaquille O’Neal and Australian comedy duo the Inspired Unemployed speaking in exaggerated accents and using Australian colloquialisms.


“This particular ad elicited a strong response from some viewers who were concerned that it was offensive and insulting to Australians, particularly young men,” Richard Bean said. “While the Ad Standards Community Panel acknowledged these concerns, they found the ad contained self-deprecating humour which would be seen by most to celebrate Australians rather than ridicule them. It was therefore found not in breach of the rules.”


Ads for a loan provider, food delivery service, brothel and horror movie also made the top 5 list. “Ad Standards’ role is to give a voice to the community, and we take every complaint seriously. Any ad found in breach of the rules must be removed or modified,” Richard Bean said. “Ad Standards has been upholding community standards in advertising for more than 20 years. One of the strengths of Australia’s advertising self-regulatory system is the high level of industry compliance, along with the independent adjudication of complaints by the Ad Standards Community Panel – everyday Australians who reflect the diversity of Australian society.” 


Top 5 most complained about ads of 2022


1. PointsBet – Free-to-air TV ad
This television ad features Shaquille O’Neal and the Inspired Unemployed speaking in exaggerated ‘Aussie’ accents.
Main concern: Discrimination or vilification Number of complaints: 42
Outcome: Dismissed


2. Nimble Australia – Free-to-air TV ad
This television ad features a man named “Bill Shock” whose mouth is wide-open throughout the ad.
Main concern: Discrimination or vilification
Number of complaints: 24
Outcome: Upheld


3. Uber Eats – Free-to-air TV ad 
This television ad features Paris Hilton and the Irwin family. A scene suggests that a snake has eaten a chihuahua.
Main concern: Violence
Number of complaints: 23
Outcome: Dismissed


4. Gotham City House of Sin – Billboard ad 
This billboard ad for a brothel features a woman wearing black lingerie.
Main concern: Sex, sexuality, and nudity; exploitative or degrading sexual imagery
Number of complaints: 21
Outcome: Dismissed


5. Universal Pictures – Free-to-air TV ad
This television ad promoted the film ‘The Black Phone’.
Main concern: Violence Number of complaints: 18
Outcome: Dismissed


Source: Ad Standards


About Ad Standards

Ad Standards manages the complaint resolution process of the advertising self-regulation system. Their vision is to be Australia’s community voice for complaints about advertising and marketing standards. Ad Standards purpose is to give a voice to consumer values and guide industry in maintaining decent and honest advertising aligning with prevailing community standards.


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