Discrimination trumps sex as most offensive issue in advertising

Discrimination trumps sex as most offensive issue in advertising

Australians complained more about discrimination and vilification in advertising than they did about sex and sexuality last year, the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) has revealed.

The issue of discrimination and vilification was the most dominant issue raised by complaints in 2012, accounting for 28.5% of all complaints – an increase from 20.7% in 2011.

It trumped the portrayal of sex and nudity, which was consistently the most complained about issue for five years until 2012.

According to the ASB, a reason for this change is the introduction of a new section of the code – objectification – which took effect early last year.

With that new section in place, issues of sex, sexuality and nudity accounted for 23.%, and complaints of objectification accounted for almost 14% in 2012.

Statistics also reveal that Australians are getting more conservative about what they consider appropriate language. Complaints concerning language doubled from 6.1% in 2011 to 12.2% in 2012, which is the highest recorded percentage of complaints regarding language since statistics were recorded in 2005.

The ASB suggested these figures could have been inflated by the most complained about ad for 2012 – Johnson&Johnson's Carefree ad which used the word vagina.

Issues around health, safety and violence received less complaints than they did in 2011, as did complaints relating to food and beverage.  

The majority of complaints (65.5%) related to advertisements shown on television, a marked increase from the 2011 figure of 44.2%.

In 2012, the ASB separated the Internet medium into Internet and Internet- Social Media to capture new forms of advertising. Internet advertising attracted the second highest percentage of complaints, 7.8% and internet-social media accounted for 2.6% of all complaints.

Transport complaints accounted for 1.5% of all complaints and outdoor represented 1.4%. A noteworthy decrease from 2011 was for billboard complaints decreasing from 26.4% in 2011 to 4.8% in 2012.

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