NUMBER ONE: This Ultra Tune ad spot was the most complained about ad on both free-to-air and pay TV.
NUMBER ONE: This Ultra Tune ad spot was the most complained about ad on both free-to-air and pay TV. Ultra Tune

REVEALED: The ten most controversial ads of 2017

AUSTRALIA'S Advertising Standards Bureau has released its list of the ten most controversial advertisements of 2017.

Between them, the ten ads accounted for almost a third of the 2,700 complaints received by the bureau, with people raising concerns about discrimination, exploitation, swearing, sexuality, violence... and the improper use of fire extinguishers.

Ultra Tune Australia in particular attracted controversy for its series of ads featuring two less-than-mechanically-inclined women - it was the most complained about ad on both free-to-air and pay TV.

So what do you think? Are some of these spots beyond the pale - or are we just a nation of whingers?

1. Ultra Tune Australia


Number of complaints: 357

What people said:

"Watching two of the best female athletes in the world and this sexist rubbish comes on. Really Ultra-Tune? Disgusting portrayal of women pandering to a supposed male sexual fantasy about dumb sexy women having a water fight?"

"The women are presented in a stereo-typically sexually provocative manner. The two women are objectified through the manner in which they are dressed, the camera's focus on their buttocks and breasts easily visible in revealing clothing. Further, they are represented as incapable and in need of rescue."

"My concern is one of safety... my biggest concern is about the use of fire extinguishers. The women end up covered in the contents of the extinguishers they are using."

The outcome: Dismissed.

2. Sportsbet


Number of complaints: 202

What people said:

"The ad celebrates the fact that Ben Johnson is a convicted drug cheat athlete and makes him look cool, as if he is someone to look up to. The ad glorifies the use of drugs to get ahead in sport and life in general."

"Use of known drug cheats to advertise sports betting facilities. Entirely inappropriate and offensive."

"First of all Ben Johnson didnt win for any time frame. Once you have been done for steroids you are stripped completely. Not only does it promote gambling but people cheating in sport and dishonoring the person who actually won the event."

The outcome: Upheld.



Number of complaints: 84

What people said:

"I object to the the nature of the Tagline and it's very close association to a well known and widely used phrase. That's fine for adults but I have three children and think it is disgraceful that this ad deliberately and blatantly uses this simple play on words to sell their product. The fact that it is shown during prime time is unacceptable."

"If they can't use shit creek then they shouldn't be able to use "ship creek"."

"Young girl blaspheming with the statement OMG and the blatant reference to 'up ship creek' which is skirting around a well known swearword. How do I explain this to my 5 year old?"

The outcome: Dismissed.

4. iSelect


Number of complaints: 72

What people said:

"It is in my view totally crass and tacky and unsuitable for the 6pm time slot when many young people watch the news. It suggests that choosing an Electricity provider and sexual partners are related."

"At any time an ad such as this is inappropriate let alone being aired on Easter Sunday morning. My beautiful young daughters, 12 and 15, were on the couch braiding each others hair preparing for Easter celebrations when confronted with this content."

"Another aspect of the add that disturbs me and my family is the inclusion or suggestion of homosexuality. My religion surely does not support the practise and the I am offended that your company and society is trying to encourage and normalise this unnatural practise that goes against nature's laws."

The outcome: Dismissed.

5. Ultra Tune Australia


Number of complaints: 65

What people said:

"It degrades women and the abuse of women and the fear women have of being attacked by making light of a dangerous and fearful situation."

"It clearly glorifies rape culture, portrays women as idiots who need a man to save them and makes light of violence against women in an age where one woman a week is killed by her partner due to domestic violence. No wonder blokes think treating women poorly and using them as sex objects is ok when it's allowed on TV. Plus the acting is just terrible."

The outcome: Dismissed.

6. BCF - Boating, Camping, Fishing


Number of complaints: 51

What people said:

"This slogan is very offensive as the F'ing is short for a swear word that I don't want on hear on TV and one I especially don't want children to hear. It is disgusting."

"If BCF can't find a more mature way to advertise I want nothing to do with them."

The outcome: Dismissed.

7. Ultra Tune Australia - Pay TV version


Number of complaints: 35

What people said:

"My concerns are over the way they are hardly advertising their service but more focusing on the women in the ad. There are medium close up shots of the women's breasts and bottom jiggling in very short shorts. They then (whilst wearing light coloured tops) put out the fire but manage to wet each other, thus emphasizing their cleavage again."

"Poor Treatment of women, objectifying women as sex objects! I didn't see gorgeous men with taut bodies with skimpy clothing being sprayed with water so why do we have to see it with women but not men? Women watch football too."

"This makes women look stupid. It is extremely sexist . Especially to think in time of crisis women would rather soak each rather than fix the emergency."

The outcome: Dismissed.

8. Pacific Brands Holdings


Number of complaints: 32

What people said:

"It's disgusting. It's demeaning to women. It's sexual, at a time when children are watching, and likely to lead to some very awkward questions. It's just wrong on every level. Shame on you, Bonds."

"I was totally offended by this ad as it is so inappropriate for TV when children in particular are watching. My 10 year old niece asked her mum where were the pearls and her mother did not know what to say."

"The word ASS is used."

The outcome: Dismissed.

9. Department of Health and Human Services (Tasmania)


Number of complaints: 24

What people said:

"It is very frightening and disturbing for people of all ages, especially young children. There is swearing and abuse occurring and it is bad role modelling for children, teenagers and everyone. It is at risk of re-traumatising people who may have been in those situations before, or who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder."

"Many young children watch this format of cricket and seeing an ad like the paramedic one is not appropriate. There is violence and screaming which makes even adults uncomfortable. This ad is a powerful ad and it certainly has a place but should not be shown during family style entertainment."

The outcome: Dismissed.

10. Frucor Beverages Australia


COMPLAINTS DISMISSED: The Frucor Beverages ads in question.
COMPLAINTS DISMISSED: The Frucor Beverages ads in question. Frucor Beverages Australia


Number of complaints: 24

What people said:

"The poster is of two large lemons that easily look like two female breasts and as you get closer to the poster the tag line states 'not as guilty as it looks' as you realise they are lemons when you get up close. I found this represent the sexualisation of women and all the more disappointing that it is outside a university and 100 metres from a child care centre."

"Manipulating a picture of lemons so they obviously look like a pair of women's perky breasts and a side view of oranges made to look like the side view of a pair of breasts."

"How old can you get ? How retro ugly insulting can smut get, this sort of advertising is so 1970s dirt Australia masculine dirty that women complained about decades ago and you have the audacity to do this again. the ads are near schools and colleges. Many women would find these ads offensive and sexist. Why are there no ads of lemons suggesting penises or other things?"

The outcome: Dismissed.

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