Media releases

How much is too much? S*x, nudity in ads

The question of how much is too much sex, sexuality and nudity in advertising has been answered with the release of the latest community research.

The research, commissioned by the Advertising Standards Bureau, was released last night by Senator the Hon. Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

Ian Alwill, Chairman of the Advertising Standards Bureau, said the Advertising Standards Bureau is committed to undertaking research to assess whether the decisions of the Advertising Standards Board under the AANA Codes are in line with community expectations and community interpretation of the Code’s provisions.

"We are pleased that this most recent research demonstrates that the Board’s decisions are broadly in line with community views. This research also provides interesting insight into what aspects of an advertisement make it more or less acceptable in terms of its sexual content," Mr Alwill said.

Advertising Standards Bureau Chief Executive Officer, Ms Fiona Jolly, said the results gained from the 1200 people surveyed showed that irrelevant nudity or sexual imagery used to promote products was a common factor which made ads unacceptable.

Ms Jolly said although a number of the Board’s decisions appear to be more liberal than community expectations suggest they should be – the information provided in the survey gives a clear indication that there is a higher acceptance of sexual themes or content where the product has a connection with sex.

She said the results were gleaned from community reactions to 22 ads from TV, radio, print, outdoor and internet channels – 15 in a survey stage and 11 of these 15 plus seven further ads in a focus group stage.

"What is most offensive to the community is when sexual themes are explicit or they are strongly sexualised images. The community believes these images should be less available to children.

"Participants were very sensitive to issues around sex and young people. In particular, they were concerned about the adoption of sexualised appearance and behaviours, exacerbated by concerns about self esteem and unrealistic body image reinforced by advertising," Ms Jolly said.

She said humour, relevance and artistic treatments of sexual concepts were found to make an ad more likely to be acceptable.

Information from the research will be used by the Board to help members better understand community perceptions and will also be provided to industry associations to inform work on ensuring Australia's advertising codes are in line with prevailing community standards.

This research is available in hard copy and on-line and builds on previous work exploring general community attitudes to advertising (2007) and a similar topic-specific study into violence in advertising (2009).