Australia's most complained about ads

Australia’s most complained about advertisements from the first six months of 2021 show continuing community concern about discrimination against and vilification of people in advertising content, and issues relating to health and safety.

The most complained about ad of 2021 so far was seen on free-to-air TV and showed a man urinating on a building in promotion of an online domain provider. Complainants raised a number of issues including discrimination against men, suggestions of nudity, and unhygienic behaviour. The complaints were upheld and the ad was removed.

Three of the top 10 advertisements listed were found by the Ad Standards Community Panel to breach the advertising Codes and Initiatives. Complaints against two of these were upheld under the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) Motor Vehicle Advertising Code for showing unsafe driving practices.

This year’s list of advertisements received 496 complaints between them, the lowest recorded in the history of Ad Standards’ reporting on mid-year case and complaint statistics. 

Seventeen advertisements have already been withdrawn this year after advertisers voluntarily modified or discontinued the offending content.

These combined measures indicate advertiser’s continued support for and compliance with the advertising self-regulatory system.

Overall, Ad Standards has received 2245 complaints to 30 June, with 639 of these contributing to the 162 cases assessed by the Community Panel under one or more of the advertising Codes and Initiatives.

  1. 0122/21 – Crazy Domains – TV – Free-to-air
    The advertisement depicts a man urinating on a building.
    Number of complaints: 283
    Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.4 – Sex, sexuality or nudity, 2.6 – Health and safety
  2. 0089/21 – Aussie Broadband – TV – Free-to-air
    There are multiple versions of this advertisement showing people in their gardens using a hose. The words ‘freaking’ and bloody’ are used.
    Number of complaints: 74
    Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.5 – Language, 2.6 – Health and safety
  3. 0075/21 – South Australia Police – TV – Free-to-air
    The advertisement follows a young man driving home from a pub. He passes a number of situations consistent with drink driving and in his interior monologue he can be heard calling himself a ‘selfish prick’ for drink-driving.
    Number of complaints: 47
    Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.5 – Language
  4. 0073/21 – IAG Insurance – TV – Free-to-air
    The advertisement documents two children’s actions to save the Koalas’ homes after discovering a number of trees have been marked for removal.
    Number of complaints: 17
    Issues of concern: 2.6 – Health and safety
  5. 0109/21 – Huddle – TV – Free-to-air
    There are three versions of this advertisement, two featuring a woman and her niece and one featuring a woman by a pool.
    Number of complaints: 16
    Issues of concern: 2.1 – Discrimination or vilification, 2.5 – Language, 2.6 – Health and safety
  6. 0138/21 – Universal Pictures – TV – Free-to-air
    There are two versions of this advertisement promoting the movie “The Conjuring – The Devil Made Me Do It”.
    Number of complaints: 15
    Issues of concern: 2.3 – Violence
  7. 0036/21 – KIA Automotive Australia – TV – Free-to-air
    The advertisement shows three vehicles driving together and simultaneously performing a J turn.
    Number of complaints: 15
    Issues of concern: FCAI 2(a) – Unsafe driving, FCAI 2(b) – Breaking the speed limit
  8. 0044/21 – Volvo Car Australia – TV – Free-to-air
    The advertisement features various scenes of parents running around after children. It then shows a woman falling asleep behind the wheel of a car and the car automatically engaging the Lane Keeping Aid.
    Number of complaints: 12
    Issues of concern: FCAI 2(d) – Fatigue-drugs-alcohol, Code of Ethics 2.6 – Health and safety
  9. 0103/21 – eHarmony – TV – Free-to—air
    The television advertisement has four versions featuring various couples.
    Number of complaints: 9
    Issues of concern: 2.4 – Sex, sexuality or nudity, 2.6 – Health and safety
  10. 0078/21 – Reckitt Benckiser – TV – Free-to-air
    The television ad depicts people using water in various different situations, with a voiceover stating facts about water usage in Australia and the #FinishWaterWaste initiative.
    Number of complaints: 8
    Issues of concern: AANA Environmental Code 1 – Truth and Factual, 3 – Substantiation

What is the most offensive ad you have seen this year?


I don't see ads at all as I record everything I want to watch and flick through ads and sport and anything else that is rubbish

The one that came out No 1 in your article.  Absolutely offensive and could not understand it really - what was that

all about?  Not a good look totally disrespectful.   cannot understand where some of these ad. people get their ideas from.

The E-Harmony ads that showed various "couples" getting together and the claim that people fall in love every 14 minutes.  The problem is that all the "couples" shown are actually paid models and not genuine couples looking for a relationship..

My opinion is that most ads are annoying because they are not 'true to real life'.
They generally miss the main point, they are too long, repetitive and one has to wonder if the minds of the creators are abnormal.
I agree with PlanB but don't watch much on commercial channels, I fast forward the intrusive garbage whenever possible.

Some TV program Ads are one of my switch offs. Very rarely watch Com TV but when I do I find most of them run longer than they should which cuts the program running time or the program runs overtime. I have timed a couple of ads and they ran 3 plus minutes and a couple nearly 5 minutes. Not Good.

Can you imagine how appealing that ad is to little boys? Best ad ever IMHO

So 7 out of the 10 'most complained about' were dismissed! What does that tell you? People must have way too much time on their hands to complain about these ads.

The ad that annoys me most is the one for a dish-washing tablet, green-washed by telling you to use less water by using your dishwasher. It assumes that everyone already has a dishwasher or the means to remodel a kitchen to buy and install one, and guilting you if you don't. If that company is so worried, they are welcome to my home to redesign, remodel, install new cabinets and appliances, backsplash, flooring, lighting, and of course the almighty dishwasher and FINISH by PAYING FOR IT! Then I may consider using their dishwasher tablet! In the meantime, I will continue to wash my dishes by hand.


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