Sexy fruit ad tops public complaints

21:24, May 20 2011

Sexually suggestive fruit and a burger supposedly good enough to convert a vegetarian feature in adverts that have caused the greatest offence.

The Advertising Standards Authority's annual report shows it received 1164 complaints about 792 advertisements last year on topics ranging from sex to bank loans for IVF treatment.

Unsurprisingly, porn king Steve Crow was behind the ad found to be the most offensive. The billboard promoting the Erotica Expo in Auckland featured a naked woman's pelvic area covered with a dissected melon. Her finger was inserted in the centre of the fruit.

The ASA received 71 complaints from people claiming it was offensive and dehumanising.

Those complaints were upheld, but claims regarding seven of the 10 most complained-about adverts were not.

Five of the top 10 had a sexual theme, while the others included a beer ad thought to be too masculine, a Weetbix ad thought to encourage risky behaviour and a rapping radio jingle containing a derogatory word.


Misleading advertising was the most common issue, while liquor ads prompted 96 complaints – 70 per cent of those coming from five individuals, the report said.

ASA chief executive Hilary Souter said it had been a busy year for the board. New trends had included a rise in complaints about advertisers' websites, including the popular one-day deal sites that had sprung up recently.

There had also been complaints from Cantabrians in the wake of February's earthquake about ads seen as insensitive in the context of the disaster.

"I think one was about an NZTA car crash ad where a person is trapped, and that was just after the earthquake, and the complainant felt that was a bit insensitive."

She said the nine members of the complaints board – five members of the public and four from the advertising industry – often disagreed, especially on complaints regarding taste and decency.

Massey University advertising senior lecturer Euan Robertson said the best ads could be polarising but the industry had generally moved past using shock as a marketing tool.

"Unfortunately it is still used but, generally in the ad industry, if it's done that way, it's well researched and is done for effect.

"To be honest, I see it with my students and it's usually the most immature students that come up with the shock value and we kind of go, `Forget it.'

"It's not original, it's not new and it's really immature."

Because advertising was a mass medium, it could never please everybody, he said.

The 10 Most-Complained-About Ads of 2010


71 complaints – upheld.

A mobile billboard in central Auckland showed a naked woman with her pelvic area covered by an opened melon. Her finger was in it. Complainants called the image offensive, discriminatory and "dehumanising – reducing women to their genitalia". The Advertising Standards Authority ruled the ad was degrading and intended to cause outrage.


39 complaints – not upheld.

The TV ad depicted a couple having triplets after applying for a loan to fund another round of previously unsuccessful IVF treatment. Almost 40 people complained for a variety of reasons, including those who claimed it exploited a vulnerable group and promoted the accumulation of debt in a time of austerity. The ASA ruled the spirit and intent of the ad was one of hope and the advertiser was entitled to promote the possibility of financial assistance for such a thing.


24 complaints – settled.

The ad for condoms which appeared on the buses and billboards featured a couple in a naked embrace. Complainants argued it was offensive and inappropriate for a public place where children could see it. The advertiser claimed it was promoting safe sex and said it was not embarrassing or offensive, but agreed to remove the ads.


17 complaints – not upheld.

The TV ad showed a man being massaged by a male masseur who was so thirsty his lips were sticking to his gums, exposing his teeth and making him sound odd. Feeling uncomfortable, the man turns to the masseur and is told: "You just try and relax if you can." The ad's punchline was "Thirst is creepy". Viewers complained it made a joke out of sexual harassment. The ASA agreed the scenario was uncomfortable to watch but ruled the ad did not contain the sexual behaviour or implications suggested by the complainants.


16 complaints – not upheld.

This TV ad depicted a naked man and woman jumping into pools of chocolate. They then run a finger across each other's chocolate-covered bodies and lick them. Complainants said it was inappropriate to have naked people in an ad and objected to the way they touched each other. The ASA said the ad was not gratuitous and ruled that it was not likely to cause serious offence.


15 complaints – settled.

An ad on Tui's website featured a woman in lacy underwear with her arm covering her breasts. One breast was slightly exposed and a message read: "Distracting the boys from the task at hand since 1889". Complainants argued the ad was sexually provocative. Two other ads for the beer which featured scantily clad women also drew complaints. DB Breweries removed the ads, saying they appeared because of a computer error.


13 complaints – not upheld.

The fast-food outlet claimed its new Rebel Burger was "so good, even the most dedicated vegetarian could turn". Complainants said the ad belittled vegetarianism, and that the claim they could be swayed was "offensive, insulting and discriminatory". The ASA noted the strong objections and "sincere concerns" but said the ad was intended to be humorous. It was not likely to cause widespread offence.


13 complaints – not upheld.

The TV ad was about the infamous Black Budget and the creation of DB Export in response to a tax on beer. The slogan read: "Let nothing come between a man and a great beer". People complained it had an "unduly masculine theme" and breached the Code for Advertising Liquor. The ASA said the story was about the vision of the man who created the beer, and as beer predominantly appealed to men, such ads were therefore more likely to appeal to them.


12 complaints – upheld.

The radio jingle featured a singing, child-like cartoon voice and encouraged listeners to join the Hampsta savings scheme. It included the line: "But now my mum's joined Hampsta cause it's the smartest way to save a little bit each week to pay for Christmas Day. Now when we get to Christmas life won't be a b****, I get heaps of toys and food cause we'll be Hampsta rich." Several people said they were shocked to hear the word in this context and that it risked normalising the word for children. The ASA ruled the ad did not observe a sense of social responsibility.


12 complaints – upheld.

The TV ad showed children skateboarding and cycling on an open road around a blind corner, with some on them wrong side of the road. Viewers complained the depiction was too realistic and might prompt children to re-enact the scene, in spite of a warning on the screen saying that it was filmed in controlled circumstances. The ASA said the ad had not been prepared with a high sense of social responsibility.

* This story has been updated to remove a photograph of the Erotica Expo advertisement.

The Dominion Post