Advertising regulator dismisses Australia Day lamb ad concerns

Sheep Central, January 19, 2016

MEAT & Livestock Australia’s latest Australia Day lamb advertisement has passed muster with the Advertising Standards Board, despite more than 600 complaints in less than two weeks.

An extraordinary meeting of the ASB board has determined that the 2016 Australia Day advertisement has not breached the Australian Association of National Advertisers code of ethics.

Since it was launched online on January 10 the Youtube advertisement — featuring SBS newsreader Lee Lin Chin as the mastermind of ‘Operation Boomerang’ aimed at rescuing Aussies overseas from a lamb-less Australia Day – has had about 4.15 million views.

But it has also received almost 650 complaints from vegans and others complaining about a kale-torching scene, commando extraction raids on apartments and the use of the ‘Operation Boomerang’ title.

Before the ASB decision was released today, MLA group marketing manager Andrew Howie said the advertisement was MLA’s most successful in terms of community engagement, although the red meat marketing body was also fighting off another attack on its campaign from animal rights group Aussie Farms, which has released a parody video.

MLA welcomed the ASB decision and a spokesman said feedback to the lamb advertisement remained “overwhelmingly positive.”

“As a responsible advertiser and marketer, MLA operates in compliance with the provisions of the AANA Code – and this year’s Australia Day lamb campaign is no different,” the spokesman said.

“The role of the campaign remains to promote and build demand for Australian lamb, which is some of the best quality lamb in the world.”

Large number of complaints noted

The ADS board said it noted the large number of complaints received and the range of concerns raised under the AANA Code of Ethics, including that the advertisement is discriminatory towards vegans and on ethnicity grounds in regards to the use of the term ‘Operation Boomerang’.

“In the majority of the Board’s view a depiction of torching of the vegan food is an exaggerated and humorous response to the food that is not lamb – a portrayal of the food being less preferable to the advertised product, and not inciting hatred towards people who are vegan,” the board said.

The board noted that most members of the community would be familiar with the origins of a boomerang and its connection to indigenous Australians, but it said the Macquarie Dictionary also included a colloquial meaning of ‘something that is expected to be returned.’

“The board noted that other than the use of the word boomerang the advertisement does not depict, refer to or parody any indigenous Australians or Aboriginal culture.

“In the board’s view the use of the tagline or phrase “Operation Boomerang” as used in the advertisement is not a reference to indigenous Australians, but is meant as a reference to something which is to be returned.”

Flame-thrower scene ‘fantasy’ not violent

The board also considered the issue of violence and complaints about material contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety. These included complaints that the overall look and feel of the advertisement is violent and suggestive of terrorist attacks, that it is too violent for children and that the scene of a SWAT team member using a flamethrower is violent.

“In its careful consideration of these concerns the board noted that the advertisement is clearly a depiction of a fantasy situation where SWAT style teams are bringing Australians back to Australia for Australia Day.

“The board agreed there are exaggerated and unrealistic situations which have a look and feel of a movie and that scenes of a SWAT member coming in through a window or ceiling are clearly in this vein,” it said.

“Similarly breaking down the door of the man in the vegan scene is consistent with the fantasy movie feel of the advertisement.

“In the majority board’s view, these images are all clearly fantasy and unrealistic and are not depictions of violence nor are they likely to encourage similar behaviour in real life.”

The full case report will be published on the ASB website later today.

Source: Advertising Standards Bureau, MLA.


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  1. Michael Craig, January 19, 2016

    Good call standards board…get a grip vegans …take a chill pill

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