An ad for HotelsCombined showcasing the perks of booking with its site has been the subject of complaints about its mascot doing something ‘unseemly’ during prime time telly.
The ad opens with Max, the HotelsCombined mascot, seated at a desk in a hotel room watching a laptop with the content on the screen pixelated, and a voiceover saying, “Because some things online are best viewed from someone else’s IP”.
The bear turns around to the viewer with a grumpy expression and shuts the laptop.
The screen then shows five different types of hotel service (car park, restaurant, free WiFi, gym, spa) with Max’s finger then ‘pressing’ Wifi to illustrate searching for this service using HotesCombined.com.au.
The complaints suggested it wasn’t suitable viewing for a younger audience, claiming, “There is a clear and strong inference that the bear is watching something either illegal or immoral- there is a clear suggestion the cartoon mascot bear is watching porn.
“This ad was viewed at 7:10pm on a Sunday evening between two family shows about cooking. One being Junior Bake off – a show about children cooking. The ad is inappropriate for this time slot due to the adult message conveyed.”
HotelsCombined hit back at the complaints, saying that “in no way” does the material breach any of the codes, discriminate, employ degrading sexual appeal or show sex or nudity.
“The purpose of this creative is to illustrate that HotelsCombined offers our users a valuable service whereby users can filter and select a hotel that offers free WiFi (amongst other services),” the stated.
“The advertisement’s use of a pixelated screen was deliberately employed as a creative technique to capture the attention of viewers.”
And the Advertising Standards Board was inclined to agree, and dismissed the complaints with the reason being “most people would consider the advertisement humorous rather than offensive”.
“The Board considered that young children would not be attracted to the advertisement and would be unlikely to understand the potential inference that the bear was watching something illegal or immoral (as suggested by the complainant),” the ASB stated.
“The Board considered that children were unlikely to interpret the advertisement as anything more than a bear watching a screen.