Religious complaints against MLA lamb campaign upheld

Terry Sim, November 24, 2017

COMPLAINTS against Meat & Livestock Australia’s latest spring lamb advertising initiative have been upheld, following an independent review’s finding against the Advertising Standard Bureau’s dismissal of religious opposition to the campaign.

Earlier this year, the ASB board dismissed Hindu and religious group complaints against the ‘You Never Lamb Alone’ video ad which aimed to position lamb as the meat more people can eat regardless of their religious beliefs, background or dietary requirements.

The campaign included creative and sometimes humorous content for online, social and TV showing actors portraying the gods, goddesses and prophets of different faiths and beliefs coming together over lamb at a modern day spring barbecue.

Hindus and other religious leaders upset by the MLA campaign urged Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau board to ban the “You Never Lamb Alone” video advertisement. Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, claimed the advertisement allegedly trivialised the Hindu deity Lord Ganesha.

In relation to an actor’s comment referring to the Hindu god Lord Ganesha as “the elephant in the room”, the independent review found that the ASB board had “failed to give adequate consideration to the views expressed by complainants and this amounts to a substantial flaw in the board’s consideration – specifically a substantial flaw by failing to give adequate weight to the personal nature and effect of the comment which ridiculed a revered feature of a prominent deity of the Hindu faith for no apparent purpose.”

The ASB board considered that the advertiser, MLA, had given inadequate consideration to how seriously some Australians take their religious views, and “did not pay due attention to the level of offence about something important to those people”.

After taking into account the independent reviewer’s finding that the board gave insufficient weight to the views of complainants in regards to the ‘elephant comment’, the board determined that the advertisement breached section 2.1 of the code and upheld complaints. The Australian Association of National Advertisers’ Code of Ethics covers discrimination and vilification on the grounds of religion.

An MLA spokesman said the levy-funded body accepted the Advertising Standards Bureau’s decision to overturn their initial dismissal of complaints against the latest Spring Lamb advertising campaign, but was disappointed by the most recent decision.

“The campaign, which has now concluded, sought 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,” the spokesman said.

“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.

“Like previous lamb campaigns, this latest once again sought to bring people together, regardless of beliefs, to share a meal and be unified<” the MLA spokesman said.

“The campaign featured gods, prophets and deities from across a wide range of religions alongside atheism, in a clearly fantastic nature, with the intent of being as inclusive as possible.

“The gathering was intended as a metaphor for the wonderfully diverse make-up of modern Australia, and there was never any intent to single out any one religion or deity.”

MLA said it developed all of its campaigns – including this latest lamb campaign – with the positive intent of celebrating the diversity and inclusivity of Australia.

“MLA is a responsible advertiser and we always act with the intent of adhering to the Advertising Standards Code.

“While the overwhelming feedback to the campaign has been positive, we acknowledge that some community members have registered concerns and we respect that feedback<” the spokesman said.

“As with all campaigns that MLA conducts, this feedback as well as this decision from the ASB, will be considered in future creative development.”

The Spring Lamb TV and online ad component of the campaign ran as scheduled from September 4 until September 11. The video/content was viewed over 11,024,177 times and generated significant coverage — 534 pieces of coverage with an estimated OTS of 2,212,035,513 — which exceeded the campaigns expectations. Preparation is well underway for MLA’s traditional Summer Lamb campaign in January 2018.

The spokesman said the spring lamb campaign was a fully integrated campaign, made up of many elements outside the ad and online content, including other elements such as outdoor advertising, influencer activity and point of sale promotions unrelated to the creative content.

The spokesman said the decision against the lamb ad did not have anything to do with the departure of Andrew Howie from MLA and campaign’s creator, The Monkeys agency, still worked for MLA.

The ASB decision against the lamb ad only covers material within MLA’s control. Media stories are not considered within the control of the advertiser, so the ASB did not expect MLA to stop others from using it if they already had access to it.


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