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Moral outrage spikes as most complained about ads of 2023 are revealed

Red Rooster has had one of Australia's most complained about ads in 2023.

Red Rooster has had one of Australia's most complained about ads in 2023. Photo: Facebook

A billboard promoting an OnlyFans page has been named the most complained about ad in a year in which the marketing industry regulator fielded a massive spike in moral outrage from Australians.

Revealing the most complained about ads of 2023 on Tuesday, Ad Standards said the Perth billboard ad for model WC Savage copped the most ire, drawing more than 350 complaints.

Second place was handed to fast food chain Red Rooster for a TV ad that showed someone stealing fried chicken, which one person argued glorified youth crime.

Overall it was a historic year for moral outrage about advertising, with Ad Standards fielding a 25 per cent spike in complaints from viewers angry about all sorts of slights on Australia’s apparently fragile cultural status.

Executive director Richard Bean said more than 3500 complaints were received over 2023, “demonstrating the community’s enthusiasm for holding businesses accountable”.

“Advertisers need to make sure their ads align with evolving community standards around the use of sexual imagery and violence, with these issues generating more than half of this year’s complaints,” he said.

Bikini bottom billboard

Perth OnlyFans model WC Savage drew the most outrage in 2023 over a billboard depicting her in a bikini at the beach, with Australians writing in to lament how many children might have been exposed to the ad.

“All outdoor advertising to be G-rated,” one complainant recommended.

But WC Savage clapped back in a lengthy response, defending her business as a legitimate tax-paying enterprise and arguing that women should be empowered to dress and act as they wish.

“All I do through my page is empower and educate subscribers around sex and enjoyment and to say that is demeaning to women (as a female owner of the ad) is quite absurd,” she said.

Ultimately, the Ad standards board dismissed the complaints in a decision that was later upheld on review, saying that the depiction – while sexual in nature – had treated the matter with “care”.

Grand theft chicken?

Red Rooster’s depiction of chicken theft in its advertising  sparked similar derision from complainants, who lamented a decaying moral fabric.

One person said an advertisement for a fried chicken product was “promoting the idea that if you want it, just take it” at a time when “we are seeing SO [sic] much youth crime”.

“Almost every time there’s a news broadcast, youth offenders are stealing whatever they want, damaging property, attacking innocent people,” the complainant argued.

Population-adjusted youth crime measures fell slightly in 2022 from 1785 offenders per 100,000 people aged between 10 and 17 to 1778 offenders, according to official figures from the ABS.

Ad Standards dismissed the complaints, saying it depicted a “practical joke” of taking a friend’s chicken rather than the purportedly serious crime of grand theft chicken.

Kissed a girl

Mars Wrigley’s gum ad showing one woman kissing another drew the third most complaints in 2023 at 126, with Australians expressing outrage at the “aggressive” nature of the smooch.

Some complainants – who may or may not be comfortable with their own sexuality – shrouded their criticism in the lack of audible consent in the ad before the kiss.

Others were more honest about their homophobic motivations for disliking the ad.

“To [sic] many same sex relationships in the media all the time. It needs to be tolerated but should not be advertised as the norm,” one wrote.

Ad Standards also dismissed this complaint, suggesting that nothing untoward had occurred.

Winter feeling, sexual healing

Australia’s fourth most complained about ad in 2023 drew 99 complaints and was a billboard about a vibrator, implying the benefits of masturbation during the coldest months of winter.

Complaints again centred around a perception that the moral fabric of Australian society was being irrevocably harmed by the advertisement, suggesting that no one had thought of the kids.

“Messaging such as this robs our children of their innocence, sparks interest in sexual experimenting at too young an age when they are not mature enough,” one complainant said.

“It also trashes the sacred right of parents to protect their children from adult concepts.”

This complaint was also dismissed by Ad Standards, which found the billboard wasn’t “overtly sexual”.

Exorcising the devil

Australia’s fifth most complained about ad in 2025 promoted the video game Diablo 5, which is about groups of holy crusaders enduring horrors to exorcise demons and protect humanity.

It’s a tale as old as the Bible, but that detail appears to have been lost on complainants, who took issue with the presentation of a demonic figure on a public billboard.

“As an adult it brought back memories of the hell of the two years of lockdowns in Melbourne,” said one complainant, who self-reported as an offended Christian.

Unsurprisingly, Ad Standards also dismissed these complaints, finding they had no merit.

Topics: Advertising
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