A new Lynx advert entitled Clean Your Balls has wound up the nutters in Australia.
The three-minute commercial, based on a US version that aired 18 months ago, features Australian pop singer and actress Sophie Monk taking on the appearance of a TV host selling the benefits of a new product, the Lynx buffer.
Balls... no one wants to play with them when they're dirty, she starts. That's why you have to keep your balls clean. Monk then proceeds to show how the new scrubber can do just that by cleaning a succession of sports balls,
including small balls (golf), hairy balls (tennis) and a big ball sack (football).
But not everyone sees the funny side of the double entendre. Collective Shout, a nutter group that campaigns against the sexualisation of advertising, has put in a complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau.
Melinda Tankard Reist, co-founder of Collective Shout said that objectifying women in these hyper-sexualised scenes is actually harmful, adding: They contribute to an ongoing second-class status of women.
Tankard Reist called Lynx, the male grooming brand owned by Unilever, repeat corporate offenders over their sexualised advertising.
Australia's advert censor has banned an ad for Unilever deodorant Lynx for demeaning older men, but it was cleared of degrading both sexes, racism and bad language.
The part of the ad deemed unacceptable came at end, when an old man produced two deflated medicine balls and asks, Can you help me with these saggy old balls? Nobody's played with them for years.
The ad received around 150 complaints from the public. One of the complaints to the Adverstising Standards Bureau (ASB) read:
It is smutty and filled with crude innuendo of a sexual nature. It is not clever advertising but rather immature banter akin to schoolyard talk. It has nothing to do with the advertising of the product and is totally unnecessary and demeaning to
men. If the topic was woman's breasts there would be outrage. Not funny not clever just feral.
The ASB ruled that, with the exception of the depiction of the older man, the portrayals of the people in the ad were not offensive.
Lynx responds to ad ban with fake press conference boosting the double entendre Lynx responds to ad ban with fake press conference boosting the double entendre.
In a move suggesting that a ban on Unilever's Lynx Clean Your Balls ad was a part of the company's advertising strategy from the outset, the brand has immediately launched a new video featuring an unapologetic mock press conference.
Seventeen interactive ads on video on demand (VOD), on You Tube and Facebook, and cinema screens for Lynx shower gel.
Eg VOD ads:
a. An ad showed five women with the voice-over referring to each one in turn as either party girl , high maintenance girl , brainy girl , flirty girl or sporty girl . The screen became static showing pictures of
the five women with their names next to them. Text stated WHAT'S YOUR TYPE? CLICK ON A GIRL TO SEE HER FILM. KEEP UP WITH LYNX SHOWER GELS .
b. Clicking on PARTY GIRL took the viewer through to a video ad showing a man and woman dancing in a domestic setting. The voice-over stated, If you're the kind of guy who finds himself still up at 7.30 am dancing in the smouldering
wreckage of his apartment, you're probably going out with a party girl. Keep going and she'll grant you access to her VIP area. Keep going with Lynx Fever. On-screen text stated KEEP YOUR PARTY GIRL HAPPY .
17 complainants saw the ads on various media
All 17 complainants considered the ads were sexist, objectified women and were demeaning to women, and challenged whether the ads were offensive.
Four of the complainants also challenged whether the ads were offensive, because they portrayed men as sexually obsessed, manipulative and devious.
Unilever said the cinema ads were given a U rating, with the exception of Party Girl which was given a PG rating. They said two of the VOD executions were given a post 7.30pm timing restriction which they said demonstrated the
clearance bodies believed the ads were suitable for viewing by a broad audience.
Unilever believed the ads had been prepared with a sense of responsibility and were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. They believed the number of complaints received (17) compared to the number of people who saw the ad - which was
10.4 million impressions across VOD and paid-for online space, and a combined audience of approximately 19 million people at the cinema - was very small. They believed that showed the ads had not caused serious or widespread offence.
Facebook reviewed the ads and were satisfied that they complied with their applications policy.
YouTube said none of the ads would have violated their advertising policies.
ASA Assessment: Complaints Not Upheld
1. Not Upheld
The ASA understood the ads' scenarios were based on the two ideas that people have certain types to whom they are attracted and that in the early stages of dating, everyone adapts their behaviour to some extent in order to impress their
partner. The women were identified as one of five types based on their interests and the viewers or cinema audience (whereby the cinema recorded which ad received the most cheers from the audience) could choose to see an ad based on the
type of girl in whom they were interested.
Complainants were concerned that the women appeared to be treated as sexual objects which could be chosen and their treatment in the ads was degrading. In the context of dating, we considered viewers were likely to see the ads as
illustrating that some people were attracted to others with particular traits, characteristics or interests; something with which we considered viewers would be familiar. While the idea of choosing a type may be distasteful, in the context
of the ads the women were unlikely to be seen as objects and therefore, we considered on that basis, the ads were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ads were told from the man's perspective of the date and commented on the dynamic of the couple's relationship. However, the women were not depicted in a negative light and they were not shown in an overtly sexual manner. The ads referred to
the sexuality of the couple's relationship using innuendo to infer that if the men acted in a certain way they would be rewarded sexually. We recognised that the humour would not be to everyone's taste but we concluded the ads were unlikely to
cause serious or widespread offence.
2. Not Upheld
We understood the ads were intended to present an exaggerated view of dating from a male perspective during which the men adapted their behaviour to impress their girlfriends. Some complainants believed the ads portrayed men in a negative light
showing them to be sexually obsessed and behaving in a devious and manipulative way.
We noted the ads showed each of the men doing things they may not willingly choose to do in order to impress their girlfriends with the ultimate goal that they would be rewarded sexually. We considered their behaviour in that context would be
seen by some viewers as portraying men in a negative light. However, as mentioned above in point one, we considered that humour would not appeal to everyone and that some viewers may find it crass. Nonetheless, we considered the scenarios played
out in the ads were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to viewers.
On both points, we investigated the ads under CAP Code rules 1.3 (Social responsibility), 4.1 (Harm and offence) and 30.3 (VOD appendix) but did not find them in breach.
A video ad, for the Lynx Manwasher Shower Tool , was shown on Gym TV and on YouTube:
The ad, which was in the style of a product presentation filmed with a live audience, featured two female characters: Stephanie De Mornay and Amber James . Stephanie introduced Amber and asked, What have you got for us today,
Amber? Amber responded, Balls. Nobody wants to play with them when they're dirty. That's why you have to keep your balls clean. The problem is soap just isn't enough. She was shown unsuccessfully cleaning a football. Stephanie asked,
Well, how can guys clean their balls properly so they're more enjoyable to play with? Amber replied, Well finally there's a tool that can really get the job done. The Lynx Manwasher. Cleans your balls. She held up a bottle of Lynx
shower gel and a Manwasher . The audience, including a couple of men who held rugby balls, were shown clapping and cheering...
Two complainants challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and unsuitable for display where it might be viewed by children.
One complainant challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, because they believed the implication that the black character had bigger balls than the white characters played on racial stereotypes.
ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld
1. Not upheld
The ASA acknowledged that very young children would be unlikely to be aware of the slang meaning of the term balls , but we considered that older children would be likely to know and understand that slang meaning, particularly in the
context of an ad which discussed the use of a Manwasher . Nonetheless, we noted the actions Unilever had taken to specifically target the ad to their target demographic of men aged between 16 and 34, and noted we had not received any
complaints that the ad had been seen by children. We concluded the ad had been appropriately targeted and was not, therefore, irresponsible.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code rule 1.3 (Responsible advertising), but did not find it in breach.
2. Not upheld
We noted Unilever's view that the ad did not create the impression that the size of the sports balls was representative of the size of the testicles of the men in the audience, or that the skin colour of the men was relevant. However, we
considered that because the premise of the ad was based on the double entendre of the word balls , viewers would draw connections between characteristics of the men and the balls they were holding for comedic effect. For example, at the
beginning of the ad, when Amber referred to one man's golf balls as small balls , his reaction was to look concerned and uncertain.
We noted the audience included only one black man, and we considered that by having him present the large net of footballs for cleaning in contrast to the smaller balls presented by the other men, the ad played on racial stereotypes. We
considered it was therefore likely that some viewers would find the ad distasteful on that basis. However, we noted the ad had been targeted at men aged between 16 and 34 and we concluded that, on balance, it was unlikely to cause serious or
widespread offence amongst that audience.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code rule 4.1 (Harm and Offence), but did not find it in breach.