Most complained about ads of 2023

Ad Standards has revealed the five ads that attracted the most complaints in 2023.

Executive Director Richard Bean said that Ad Standards had received over 3,500 complaints this year and investigated more than 250 ads that raised issues under the advertising industry codes.

“We’ve seen a 35 per cent increase in complaints this year demonstrating the community’s enthusiasm for holding businesses accountable for their ads,” said Richard Bean.

The main issues of concern were sexual appeal, violence, and demonstrating behaviour contrary to community health and safety standards.

“Advertisers need to make sure their ads align with evolving community standards around the use of sexual imagery and violence, with these issues generating more than half of this year’s complaints,” Richard Bean cautioned.  

The most complained about ad was a billboard promoting an adult content creator. The ad attracted 350 complaints.

In second place with 214 complaints was a tv ad for a fast-food chain showing a skateboarder stealing fried chicken from other skateboarders at a skatepark.  

A tv ad for chewing gum and billboard ads for an online adult store and an M-rated video game also made the list.

The decision about whether an ad is in breach of the industry rules is made by the Ad Standards Community Panel, a group of everyday Australians from a range of backgrounds.

While none of the ads in the top five were found in breach of the rules, the Ad Standards Community Panel upheld complaints about more than 70 ads this year. Another 30 ads were removed or changed by advertisers as soon as Ad Standards made them aware of complaints.

“Australia’s advertising rules are designed to ensure that every ad is a responsible ad, and that all ads align with community standards,” said Richard Bean.

“If anyone thinks that an ad has crossed the line, they should lodge a complaint with Ad Standards. We accept complaints about ads on any medium and a single complaint is all it takes to initiate an investigation.”

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Top 5 most complained about ads of 2023

1. WC Savage – Billboard
This ad featured a woman in a bikini and included the OnlyFans logo and a QR code.
Number of complaints: 350
Outcome: Dismissed

2. Red Rooster – TV ad
This ad shows a skateboarder stealing chicken from other skateboarders at a skate park.  
Number of complaints: 214
Outcome: Dismissed

3. Mars Wrigley Australia – TV ad
This ad for gum shows two women in a car listening to music. One leans over to kiss the other.
Number of complaints: 126
Outcome: Dismissed

4. Lovehoney – Billboard
This ad featured the phrase “Winter chills have never felt so good” and included an image of a hand holding a sex toy.
Number of complaints: 99
Outcome: Dismissed

5. Activision Blizzard Pty Ltd – Billboard
This ad for the Diablo IV video game featured a picture of a demon and the phrase “Welcome to hell”.
Number of complaints: 44
Outcome: Dismissed

Contact: [email protected] or (02) 6173 1503.

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