Cancer Council Victoria has been found to be in breach of Section 2.3 of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics (the Code) for violence, according to a determination by the Ad Standards Community Panel (the Panel) on the 13th of April.
Section 2.3 states: “Advertising shall not present or portray violence unless it is justifiable in the context of the product or service advertised.”
The advertisement found to be in breach was a TVC that “features a young girl walking down a street with visible junk food advertising. The girl is then pelted with food and drink as she continues to walk.”
While Cancer Council Victoria agreed to cease re-publication of the ad, the original spot was still available on the organisation’s YouTube account as of 9:40am (AEST) 6 May.
One of the complaints made to the panel said: “I just feel that the message could be relayed in a more positive way, with all the young kids who are teased, taunted and harassed these days, seeing it in an ad and seeing adults being the reason of the assault of the young girl could be very distressing for any other young kids who may have experienced a similar experience either at their school or whilst going to or from their school I just think that The Cancer Council in this instance has got it’s wrong.”
Another stated: “Image of anyone being pelted with food is not acceptable, represents bullying, violence, disrespect of a young girl, no-one helping or saying anything.”
Cancer Council Victoria provided an initial response to the complaints, arguing that the purpose of the advertisement was to raise awareness of “the issue of unhealthy food and drink advertising seen by children” and “create public support to drive policy reform to remove unhealthy food and drink advertising near schools and on public transport infrastructure”.
The organization added the creative concept behind the ad was to demonstrate the way children are being bombarded with advertising for unhealthy food everyday , and the spot had received a “G rating” from the Commercials Advice Division (CAD) approval process.
When considering the complaints, and the advertisers response, the panel found despite the positive messaging of the ad, the lack of resolution or adult intervention depicted violence that was not justifiable in the context of the ad.
Accordingly, the Panel found the advertisement to be in breach of Section 2.3.
In response to the panel’s determination, Cancer Council Victoria ceased the ad’s broadcast, saying: “While Cancer Council Victoria disagrees with the Community Panel’s conclusion, we respect the Ad Standards process and will move quickly to cease to republish or rebroadcast the advertisement and this will occur by Saturday, 7th May 2022.
“Cancer Council Victoria remains committed to the purpose of this advertisement which is to raise awareness of the problem of children’s exposure to unhealthy food and drink advertising and to generate support for policy change”
The advertiser also noted: “The advertisement has generated a high level of community support for this important issue. To date, over 7,000 people, including 20 public health and community organizations, have signed an online statement in support of action to protect Victorian children from unhealthy food and drink advertising near schools and on public transport.