Advertising Complaints Rise 33% in Australia – Sex, Sexuality, and Nudity Remain Biggest Concern

According to Australia’s recently released Ad Standards Review of Operations which highlights concerns and complaints of the Australian public about advertising each year, more than 4,500 complaints were logged in 2021 –an increase of 33% compared to 2020.

Overall, the Ad Standards Community Panel considered a total of 315 cases and upheld complaints about 85 individual ads.

The biggest concerns for ad-watching Australians remain ads with sex, sexuality, and nudity –despite the trio having fallen slightly to 21.31% of all complaints, compared to 32% in 2020.

 
 

“In 2021, there was a notable increase in complaints about advertising content compared with 2020,” said Richard Bean, Executive Director.

“While this is no doubt a result of the increase in campaign activity and advertising spend – a record $8.6bn as reported through the Standard Media Index (SMI) – it may also reflect broad community sentiment.

The report additionally noted that “Complaints about health and safety doubled compared with 2020, This relates directly to the most complained about ad of 2021 which raised issues under the health and safety.”

 
 

This refers to the now pulled ad from Crazy Domains showing a man urinating on a shop front. (More on that below)



Ads receiving the most complaints

The most complained about ad in 2021 was a Crazy Domains TV ad that showed a man urinating on a shop front before a message appears saying: “The real world sucks for business. You’re better off online.” The ad, which violated Section 2.6 – Health and Safety, was eventually pulled.


In terms of which platforms where ads appear that get the most complaints, as in past years, ads seen on free-to-air TV generated the greatest numbers, followed by social media.

The report added that ads seen on TV on-demand attracted more complaints than ever before with more Australians subscribing to on-demand services.

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