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ASA releases most complained about ads of 2021

The ASA  its 2021 Annual Report on 18 May 2022. As part of this report, we have released some of the most complained about ads last year.

In 2021, we received 1245 complaints about 570 advertisements. The most complained about category was advocacy advertisements (including COVID-19 related advertising). For more information on the breakdown of complaints, please check out our 2021 Annual Report released 18 May 2022.

Below are the top three most complained about paid and non-paid advertisements of 2021. Commercial advertisements sell or promote a brand, product or service.

Top three most complained about commercial ads of 2021

  1. Asaleo Care, Libra
    TV OnDemand, and billboard
    22 Complaints: Not Upheld
    Complainants were concerned the advertisements for Libra’s Period Proof Undies were offensive, and one complainant was concerned they were culturally insensitive. The Board did not agree and ruled the ads did not reach the threshold to cause serious or widespread offence.
  1. AWWA
    TV OnDemand
    8 Complaints: Not Upheld
    Complainants were concerned the advertisement for AWWA period underwear was graphic and offensive. The ad had images of blood-stained underwear, bedding and a used sanitary pad. The Board said the ad was targeted to adult females and did not meet the threshold to cause serious or widespread offence.
  2. Spark
    TV Advertisement
    6 Complaints: Settled
    The TV ad for Skinny featured a family disguised as robbers discussing how they stole their neighbours internet. The entire family wore stockings over their heads, which Spark said was used to present an exaggerated appearance of a robber. Complainants were concerned the reference to stealing set a bad example, and that the face coverings could encourage small children to put (plastic) bags over their heads, risking suffocation. After receiving complaints, Spark removed the ad.

Top three most complained about non-commercial ads of 2021

  1. Voices For Freedom
    Unaddressed mail
    56 Complaints: Upheld
    The Complaints Board upheld complaints about two ads from Voices for Freedom on mask mandates, which implied ASA endorsement. The Board ruled the ads were misleading and not socially responsible. It also acknowledged the public health implications of Covid-19 were a counterweight to the usual liberal assessment of advocacy advertising.
  2. Voices For Freedom
    Unaddressed mail
    45 Complaints: Upheld
    The Complaints Board upheld complaints about a Voices for Freedom pamphlet containing information against Covid-19 vaccination for children. The Board ruled the ad was not socially responsible and was likely to mislead consumers. It acknowledged the public health implications of Covid-19 provided a counterweight to the usual liberal assessment of advocacy advertising.
  3. Speak Up For Women
    Billboard
    34 Complaints: Not Upheld
    Complainants were concerned the ad from Speak Up For Women was transphobic hate speech. The billboard said “Woman – women – noun – adult human female. Speakupforwomen.nz.” In the context of advocacy advertising the Board said the ad did not meet the threshold to breach the Advertising Standards Code.

credit: Advertising Standards Authority, 18 May 2022

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