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Ad showing Asian man struggling to herd cows ruled ‘demeaning’ by Australia’s ad watchdog

A dairy brand has fallen foul of Australia’s advertising watchdog for demeaning an Asian man in an ad for milk.

Devondale has been found to have created a degrading portrayal of an Asian person in a 15-second TV ad for milk which showed Asian businessmen struggling to herd cattle with the tagline “Some businesses have no business making your milk”.

The 15-second ad is taken from the minute-long execution which launched in July aimed at highlighting how Devondale is owned by Australian farmers, showing a group of people in business dress from various backgrounds struggling to manage a dairy farm.

Complaints to Australia’s Advertising Standards Board argued the ad was racist and demeaning to Asians, with one saying: “I believe this advertisement is very racist and demeaning to Asians. The advert dialogue and theatrics infer that Asian people can’t manage animals; therefore viewers should buy from Devondale as ‘they’ are ‘Aussies’. Pathetic.”

Murray Goulburn, the parent company of Devondale, defended the spot saying the casting brief called “for a group of people who could believably depict corporate executives”.

“We wanted to represent a range of ages, genders and appearances, to reflect the diversity of contemporary corporate Australia. Each character in the ads is equally incompetent at his or her farming tasks – clearly these people’s experiences lies in an office environment, not on a farm,” it said in its response to the ASB.

It also explained the 15 second spot comes from the minute long film which had four different executions, “to suit the media placements selected by Carat.”

The 60-second version of the ad: 

In response to the complaints regarding discrimination and racial vilification, Murray Goulburn described it as “lighthearted” and said it had consciously cast a range of people of different genders, ages and races to represent a “typical Australian corporate environment”, with all of the characters equally “incompetent at undertaking tasks around the dairy farm”.

In its ruling, the board noted the ad came from the longer execution and while a minority of the board considered the main theme of the ad was showing “a ‘city versus country’ battle” and that the term “Aussie Farmer” focuses on Australian made as opposed to being anti-foreign involvement, the majority of the board considered that the ad delivered a negative suggestion “that people of Asian background are not capable of, or should not be involved in farming”.

The majority of the board felt the portrayal of the man was “demeaning”, and while the full ad showed a “diverse group of people in a humorous manner” the short version did “not capture” the humour in the same way and as a result vilified both the man and Asian business, upholding the complaint.

In response to the decision, Murray Goulburn confirmed the ad was no longer on air “as its rotation in the media schedule is complete” adding it had no plans to run it in the future.

Miranda Ward

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