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Source: Advertising Standards Authority

9th June 2020

Zombies, exhaust emissions, and political advertising were among the most controversial themes raised in advertising in 2019. In this post we detail the top 5 most complained about advertisements of 2019 and outline the Advertising Standards Complaints Board decisions.

1. Coca-Cola Amatil Television Advertisement

40 Complaints

ASCB Decision: Not Upheld

The advertisement for L&P shows two zombies exploring a post-apocalyptic cityscape. Scenes include a zombie finding and drinking the remains of a used can of L&P with “Refreshingly Different” on screen.  Complainants were concerned the advertisement was in poor taste and harmful to the mental health of children and other vulnerable people. The advertiser said it was a light-hearted and humorous parody of ‘zomedy’ movies and was broadcast in accordance with its classification. The Complaints Board ruled while the advertisement may be distasteful to some, it was not offensive.

2. Hyundai New Zealand Television Advertisement

34 Complaints

ASCB Decision: Upheld (advertisement removed)

The advertisement showed an athlete running on a treadmill while breathing air coming directly out of the exhaust pipes of a Hyundai NEXO vehicle.  A disclaimer showed “Filmed under strict controlled conditions. Do not attempt this at home.” Complainants concerns included a lack of sensitivity about suicide, the danger of copy-cat behaviour and the message it was safe to breathe car exhaust. The Complaints Board said the advertisement was likely to offend and it showed a situation which could encourage a disregard for safety.

3. New Zealand National Party Social Media – Facebook and Twitter advertisements

9 Complaints

ASCB Decision: Not Upheld

The advertisement showed a bar graph labelled “Rents up Under Labour” with a blue bar representing National and a red bar representing Labour.  Complainants said the graph was misleading as it was not to scale and the data was wrong. The Advertiser said the data figures were prominent on the graphic which meant that any hyperbole would not be misleading.  The source data was displayed as a footnote.  The Complaints Board said the advertisement was unlikely to mislead most consumers, when viewed within a political advocacy landscape on the party’s social media platforms.  The appeal application was declined as disagreement with a decision was not a ground on which an appeal could be accepted.

4= Royal Forest And Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc Television Advertisement

7 Complaints

ASCB Chair Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

The advertisement shows a family visiting a river and images of cattle grazing in muddy paddocks. The voiceover included: “What happened to rivers you could swim in? When did the Government put profits before clean water?” The advertiser’s logo appeared at the end of the advertisement.  Complainants said the advertisement was misleading by implying that dairying is the sole reason NZ water ways are polluted.  The Chair said the advocacy advertisement was not misleading as the identity and position of the advertiser was clear and robust opinion is allowed under the advocacy rule.

4= Family First New Zealand Billboard Advertisement

7 Complaints

ASCB Decision: Not Upheld

The advertisement for Family First NZ says “Marijuana has a ‘kids menu’” and “Don’t legalise” with a photo of cannabis products, some of which appear to be sweets.  It includes a website address and an authorisation statement. Complainants said the ad was misleading and played on fear. The Complaints Board said the advertisement draws the public’s attention to some of the cannabis products that might be available for sale in New Zealand if recreational cannabis is made legal. The advocacy advertisement promoted the advertiser’s view and was not in breach of the Advertising Standards Code.

5. Imperial Brands Television Advertisement

6 Complaints

ASCB Decision: Upheld in part (advertisement to be removed)

The advertisement for myblu Vape Device introduced three people who used it for the reasons of savings, appearance and fitness. The advertisement ended with: “My Freedom – myblu. Vape with confidence”.  Complainants said the advertisement was misleading by implying that vaping doesn’t have negative health impacts.  The Complaints Board said the advertisement implied that vaping was a safe activity and that while the studies referred to by the Advertiser support the view that vaping is less harmful than smoking, they do not support the view that there are no risks.