A TELEVISION advert depicting a family of caravanners stranded in 'Ship
Creek' was among the most complained about last year, the advertising
watchdog has revealed.
The humourous footage advertising AAMI's roadside assist programme
offended scores of viewers who complained to the Australian Advertising
Bureau claiming it breached the Advertiser Code of Ethics.
Although no actual swear words were used in the 29-second advert, they
protested it still used "inappropriate language" and was not
appropriate for children.
Community concern about advertising inferences, as well as sex and
language, are highlighted in the bureau's latest list of most complained
"This year the ASB has met the challenge of a record number of complaints
being processed in a single year, with over 6000 complaints about
advertisements lodged in 2017,” ASB chief executive Fiona Jolly said.
Nearly a third of them related to advertisements in the top 10 list.
"Advertisements with language that people would not like to hear their
children repeating will often receive large numbers of complaints," Ms
"Even more so if the advertisement depicts a child using the bad
standing by their caravan after breaking down on
a rural dirt road
The offending AAMI advert featured members of a family standing by their caravan
after breaking down on a rural dirt road.
Noticing a sign saying 'Ship Creek', the father repeats the words on his
mobile phone while trying to describe their location to AAMI.
In its findings, the ASB's Board noted that when his young son went to
repeat his father’s words the suggestion was he was going to say 'shit
creek' rather than Ship Creek.
His father stopped him which, in the board’s view, highlighted that the
phrase 'shit creek' was not appropriate for children.
AMMI told the Board that while children appeared in the advert to
dramatise a family whose car has broken down in a remote location, its
target television audience was 25 to 54-year-olds and would only appear in
programming relevant for PG rating.
"Although the use of Ship Creek may be described as a play on words, no
inappropriate language is used within the ad and the pronunciation of the
word in question is clearly 'ship' reinforced visually by the Ship Creek
sign," it said.
"This, along with the enjoyment of the family, soften the potential for
this to be taken out of context."
The Board acknowledged that some community members might find a reference
to the S-word to be inappropriate, but pointed out the word was not
actually used in the advertisement.
It noted the repeated use of the phrase Ship Creek and considered that
while this emphasised the reference to 'shit creek' the overall tone was
"light-hearted and humorous" and no strong or obscene language had been
The Board noted the advertisement had been rated ‘PG’ by
Commercials Advice (CAD) and
considered that the language used was not inappropriate for this relevant
The Board considered the advertisement did not use "strong, obscene or
inappropriate language" and determined the advertisement did not breach
Section 2.5 of the Code.
Finding that the advertisement did not breach the Code on other grounds,
the Board dismissed the complaints.