MORE than 200 complaints against Meat & Livestock Australia’s 2017 ‘You Never Lamb Alone’ spring campaign have been dismissed by the Advertising Standard’s Bureau.
The new lamb campaign aims to position lamb as the meat more people can eat regardless of their religious beliefs, background or dietary requirements.
But its creative and ‘tongue-in-cheek’ content portraying the gods, goddesses and prophets of different faiths and beliefs coming together over lamb at a modern day spring barbecue has offended the leaders of some religions, including Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Christians, in Australia and overseas.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed led a campaign urging the Advertising Standards Bureau board to ban the advertisement and for MLA board chair Dr Michele Allan and managing director Richard Norton to apologise and withdraw it. The High Commission of India in Canberra also said the MLA advertisement hurt the religious sentiments of the Indian community and urged action by the Australian Government.
The campaign received 218 complaints across the four mediums – television 137, internet 59, Facebook and pay TV 3 – but late last week the ASB dismissed all complaints.
Complainants argued that the advertisement discriminated or vilified lifestyle choices or religion under the Advertising Standards Code. However, the ASB board ruled that the majority of the board considered that the overall tone of the advertisement is light-hearted and humorous and in their view the intent is to be inclusive in a manner which promotes a harmonious and multi-faith environment.
ASB decision a ‘green signal’
A statement from Rajan Zed said Hindus and others were shocked at the Advertising Standards Bureau’s reportedly “green signal to apparently reckless marketing strategies of MLA which had already upset Hindu and other faith communities worldwide.”
“The ASB decision clearly signalled that the current system of so-called advertising “self-regulation” was not effectively working in Australia and it was time for it to go.
“This case had highlighted that integrity of this advertising self-regulation system was highly doubtful, he said.
As president of Universal Society of Hinduism, Zed has urged Australia’s Minister for Communications and the Arts Mitch Fifield to move the advertising regulation to his department and dismiss ASB, “which had blatantly failed to deliver despite the high community resentment.”
The statesman said the ASB decisions like this would result in further dent into falling consumer confidence in and respect for general standards of advertising in Australia. ASB seemed to have lost its “sense of social responsibility to the consumer and society as a whole”, he said.
MLA welcomes ASB decision
MLA welcomed the Advertising Standards Bureau’s dismissal of the complaints.
“Like previous “You Never Lamb Alone” campaigns, this year’s Spring Lamb campaign seeks to promote the value of unity and inclusivity.
“There was never an intention to offend, rather we wanted to ensure that we were as inclusive as possible,” MLA said in a statement.
“To this end, those religions that don’t typically eat red meat are not shown consuming lamb in the advertisement, but are still invited to the table.”
MLA said its advertisements have a history of being irreverent and jovial.
“But we are a responsible advertiser acting always with the intent of adhering to the Advertising Standards Code.
“Today’s outcome reflects our ongoing commitment to the code and to responsible advertising.”
MLA said most of the community feedback regarding the spring lamb campaign has been positive.
“However some community members have registered concerns and we acknowledge and respect that feedback.
“As with every campaign that MLA conducts, we will consider all of the feedback that we have received in future creative development,” MLA said.
“MLA develops all of its campaigns – including this latest Lamb campaign – with the positive intent of celebrating the diversity and inclusivity of Australia.”
You can read the entire ASB summary here https://adstandards.com.au/cases/2017/September.