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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

Pop CultureJuly 17, 2023

This year’s top 10 dismissed ad complaints

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

Do TV ads still have to power to make us steaming mad? Tara Ward finds out. 

Sometimes the most dramatic part of watching broadcast television is the ad breaks, and it seems nothing gets us more hot under the collar than some fruity language halfway through The Chase. The Advertising Standards Authority handles complaints from viewers who believe advertising codes have been breached, welcoming strongly-worded gripes from New Zealanders who are venting about everything from smoke alarms on a Lotto ad to a boozy Briscoes celebration

While many of these complaints are found to have merit, others fail to meet the necessary criteria to be taken further, even the ones protesting the use of “moist”. In a world filled with things to get upset about, we clutched our pearls and dived deep into the ASA website to find ten of the most fascinating ad complaints the ASA dismissed over the past two years. 

Chanui is bloody good tea

Chanui Tea ads have always been unique, but last year this potty-mouthed edition had one viewer boiling over. “This advertisement uses an inappropriate and unnecessary swear word at an unsuitable time of the day, at lunch time,” they claimed, arguing that such bad language encourages children to swear. They were right to be concerned. Kids can be little shits. 

Despite the ad screening during the midday news (where other seemingly offensive words like “wealth tax” and “cycle lane” are thrown around willy-nilly), the ASA ruled the use of “bloody” did not reach the threshold to cause offence for most viewers. 

Stickman is a simpleton

“Stickman should be seen for what it is. A simpleton which is derogatory and again attempts to present Pak N Save as the non discerning consumer,” wrote one discerning consumer in January last year, outraged over a Pak’nSave ad that saw a talking stick figure try to save customers money by covering the entire ad break with a yellow blackout blind. 

Is Stickman really Adrian Orr in disguise? This complaint should have been upheld on the grounds of the ad being so bonkers, but the ASA ruled it did not reach the threshold to be exploitative or cause serious offence. 

The vibrating breasts chair

In June, a TEBO massage chair ad provoked two angry responses from viewers appalled to see a woman on the telly. “I think it is absolutely disgusting as it shows a female person lying on it and half her top open and is almost exposed,” one disgusted viewer. “Unnecessarily uses provocative images of young females to sell massage chair – complete with close up images of the chair vibrating breasts,” grumbled the other. Honestly, where’s the Stickman blockout blind when you need it?  

Watching this ad sounds like a stressful experience, one that would be eased by sitting in a futuristic armchair and enjoying a full body massage in the privacy of your own home. Alas, the ASA ruled the threshold was not breached (nor vibrated) and took the complaints no further.

Don’t worry about these bumholes

The ASA thought long and hard about bumholes last year, after a viewer took issue with the Waka Kotahi Road to Zero ad where a driver jokingly refers to his colleagues as “these bumholes”. The complainant believed the phrase was unsuitable for a teatime audience, and after dedicating two pages to the legal ins and outs of “bumholes”, the ASA ruled the words would not cause widespread offense. It’s official: don’t worry about these bumholes.  

The TEBO chair has zero gravity

If the vibrating breasticles weren’t enough to send the TEBO chair to space, then the ad’s claim that the massage chair provides zero gravity should do the trick. “How is this possible?” one sceptical viewer – possibly the chair itself – asked. How indeed, replied the ASA, who put on their space suits and moonwalked into a ruling that the claim was not misleading and the complaint had no grounds to proceed. 

Genesis Energy isn’t pissing around

This Genesis Energy ad features a family taking a road trip in an electric car, using a car battery that lasts long enough for one argument and “two wee stops”. This theory on time and space made one viewer wonder if Genesis was taking the piss, complaining the ad promoted “inappropriate toileting practices” at a time when freedom campers were being banned. “This is NOT okay,” they fumed. The ASA disagreed, ruling that a sneaky wee stop doesn’t condone anti-social behaviour. 

No tough bastards allowed

This Izuzu ute ad provoked a whopping six complaints about the use of “tough bastard” to describe three different farmers. “Brian is a ‘bastard’. But Brian is on Free to Air TV in a Child friendly time slot,” protested one viewer, definitely not named Brian. “Lowers standards and I find it offensive,” accused another. “Why is this advert still running?” growled a third. The ASA, however, saw the element of humour in the ad and ruled the term would not cause serious offence, just like that other sweary farm truck ad

McDonalds delivers bad parenting

A viewer was not lovin’ it when they saw this McDonalds ad, which shows parents rushing through their kids’ bedtime routine (and kicking an innocent teddy bear in the process), so they can enjoy their Maccas delivery in peace. “It is the poor parenting and violence towards the child’s toy that is a very wrong attitude to promote,” the complainant argued, calling out the “appalling” parenting and promotion of unhealthy food. Was the complaint made by the teddy bear? I like to think so.

The chair of the complaints board ruled the issue did not reach the threshold to breach any relevant advertising authority codes, and then presumably lay on the couch and enjoyed a lovely Filet-O-Fish. 

Strepsils is terrorising cats

Even the nation’s felines aren’t safe from the evils of advertising. “Strepsils ad has really loud raucous screech which terrorises our cats, they are terrified,” one upset viewer wrote. “This is absolute rubbish and unfair on all pets and humans.” Do cats even get sore throats? The ASA did not investigate this pressing cat health issue, instead ruling that the brief sound was unlikely to cause fear or distress to most consumers. 

Nothing beats Barry’s beef

Which came first, the chicken or Barry’s beef? Only the ASA knows for sure, after they ruled a complaint about a McDonald’s Double McSpicy Chicken Burger ad could not be upheld. The complaint regarded the “unsafe driving practices” of beef-loving Barry, who didn’t look behind him when he began reversing his truck. Maybe this is what the secret shame of a forbidden love for spicy white meat does to some people. Good luck to all the Barrys out there. 

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