Skip To Main Content

Every product is carefully selected by our editors and experts. If you buy from a link, we may earn a commission. Learn more. For more information on how we test products, click here.

Most complained about ads australia

5 Most Complained-About Aussie Ads in 2022 Revealed

It’s that time of the year when Ad Standards Australia releases its naughty list of the most complained-about ads. Pulled from a group of over 250 ads in 2022 that “raised issues under the advertising industry codes,” fifty were in breach of the rules.  As for the five most complained-about ads of 2022, which includes a loan provider, food delivery service, brothel and horror movie, they received a total of 128 complaints for a range of concerns, including discrimination, violence, sexuality and nudity. But surprisingly, only one ad was deemed in breach of the Ad Standards code of conduct, with the rest of the investigations dismissed for one reason or another.

RELATED: If You’re Cooked, Get Off The Stove: NZ Firies Release Recipes for the Heavily Intoxicated

Ad Standard, the organisation that handles complaints about advertising in Australia, has revealed the most complained-about ads of 2022. Executive director Richard Bean stated that certain community members regarded the use of sexual appeal and violence, together with worries about how discrimination is portrayed in advertising, to be unacceptable.

“Australia’s advertising codes exist to make sure ads on all media are responsible and align with community standards. While most comply with the rules, there are some ads that cross the line – and that’s where we step in,” said Bean.

According to the expert, 2022 was the year of “sexual appeal or violence” complaints “which some members of the community have found offensive and unacceptable,” alongside “raised concerns about discrimination being depicted in advertising.” Ads on free-to-air TV again received the most complaints this year, followed by Instagram and TV on-demand services.

“Ad Standards’ role is to give a voice to the community, and we take every complaint seriously. Any ad found in breach of the rules must be removed or modified,” Bean said.

Top Five Most Complained-About Ads in Australia

Let’s find out who made a list and what it means for the advertising industry overall.

1. PointsBet (free-to-air TV)

The 2022 advertisement that drew the most criticism was for a betting business and featured Shaquille O’Neal and the Australian comedy team, the Inspired Unemployed, speaking with pronounced accents and utilising local slang.

“This particular ad elicited a strong response from some viewers who were concerned that it was offensive and insulting to Australians, particularly young men,” Richard Bean said.  “While the Ad Standards Community Panel acknowledged these concerns, they found the ad contained self-deprecating humour, which would be seen by most to celebrate Australians rather than ridicule them. It was, therefore, found not in breach of the rules,” said Bean.

Primary concern: Discrimination or vilification
Number of complaints: 42
Outcome: Dismissed

2. Nimble (free-to-air TV)

A man named “Bill Shock” whose mouth is wide-open throughout the ad. The panel determined the advertisement did portray or depict material in a way that discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of disability.

Primary concern: Discrimination or vilification
Number of complaints: 24
Outcome: Upheld

3. Uber Eats (free-to-air TV)

Featuring Paris Hilton and the Irwin family. A scene suggests that a snake has eaten a chihuahua.

Primary concern: Violence
Number of complaints: 23
Outcome: Dismissed

4. Gotham City House of Sin (billboard)

A Billboard ad for a brothel (which has nothing to do with Batman) features a woman wearing black lingerie. Despite the concerns, The Panel determined the advertisement did treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant broad audience and did not breach the code.

Primary concern: Sex, sexuality, and nudity; exploitative or degrading sexual imagery
Number of complaints: 21
Outcome: Dismissed

5. Universal Pictures (free-to-air TV)

Free-to-air TV ad: this ad promoted the film ‘The Black Phone’, which was a bit too scary for some, despite being deemed “justifiable” in context.

Main concern: Violence
Number of complaints: 18
Outcome: Dismissed