Increasing community scrutiny of music in ads

The upward trend in complaints about the background music played during TV ads shows viewers are listening hard and advertisers need to be aware.

While some of the ads are causing a bit of a giggle online, it is important for advertisers to choose appropriate music to match their imagery to avoid any embarrassment to their brand and breaches of the AANA Code of Ethics.

In the last few months, Ad Standards looked at five different ads due to community complaints about the background music:

  • A complaint was received about a telecommunications commercial that used a song with the words ‘cut up some thugs’. The lined followed ‘cut up a rug’ about dancing, and the advertiser said it was easy to miss the offensive line. The Ad Standards Community Panel dismissed the complaints as the overall theme of the advertisement was fun and happiness and the line was said in passing.
  • An ad for lipstick used a popular pop song that contained ‘the F word’. While the ad omitted the offensive word, complainants familiar with the original song said it was an inappropriate choice. The Community Panel dismissed the complaints as there was no offensive content in the ad.
  • Complaints were received about a deodorant commercial where the phrase ‘suck my balls’ was apparently heard. The advertiser and the music producer came out publically to state that the song only contains gibberish and the offensive words were misinterpreted and the Community Panel dismissed it for this reason.
  • A recent insurance ad using the popular Hunters and Collectors song ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’ drew complaints (and laughter) due to the matching of lyrics with particular images. The advertiser noted that the lyrics were not meant to be interpreted literally. The Community Panel dismissed the complaints as even though the imagery and lyrics seemed to be an odd choice, they did not breach any of the Codes.
  • Complaints were received about a car commercial featuring a young girl singing ‘Black Velvet’ with concern over the sexualised song choice. However the Panel dismissed this complaint as the advertiser pointed out that the song is actually about the life of Elvis Presley.

While the most recent complaints were dismissed, advertisers should note than complaints on this issue can result in an advertisement being upheld for using inappropriate lyrics in ads

  • An ad for a local club featured a song with the lyrics ‘taking your troubles away’ while including various images of gambling and alcoholic drinks. The Panel upheld the complaints due to the suggestions that alcohol and gambling are a means to ease life’s troubles.

For the latest news on Ad Standards Community Panel determinations go to

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