Burger ad banned for being “exploitative and degrading”

Article by Yolanda Redrup /
Smart Company /
January 06, 2014 /
Click here to view original /

A magazine advertisement by Bondi-based Goodtime Burgers featuring a burger in between a woman’s bottom cheeks has been banned for being “exploitative and degrading”.

The ad featured a bikini-clad woman lying on a beach with a burger made up between her bottom cheeks with the slogan “the freshest fun between the buns”.

The advertisement ran originally in the December issue of The Beast, a community magazine distributed to 120,000 homes in Sydney’s eastern suburbs through letter-box drops and displayed at shop-fronts.

Following the magazine’s release a number of complaints were made, including: “A burger patty and accompanying lettuce etc is lodged in a woman’s private part, the woman’s body and private parts are objectified as something for people (probably men) to consume.”

On social media the ad was divisive, with some users supporting the burger shop and others labelling the campaign “revolting and offensive”.

In response to the complaints, Goodtime Burgers told the Advertising Standards Board the magazine ad was designed to “raise awareness to a new restaurant opening in Bondi Junction”.

“The image was anticipated to be eye-catching, an association with summer and memorable. There was no intention for the advertisement to be obscene in any manner nor to be offensive,” it says.

“The image is not found to be highly detailed and therefore the lettuce burger patty may be lodged in the woman’s buttocks, however, is not “lodged in a woman’s private part” nor does this objectify the woman’s parts can be consumed like a burger.”

Goodtime Burgers also argued the woman’s gender was not at the fore of the advertisement, as the woman faced away from the camera and “the image could easily have been of a male”.

“The rear end is used to emulate the same shape of a burger bun and not used as a means to either objectify or vilify women,” Goodtime Burgers says.

“The use of such body part is not used in a sexual manner, nor to promote a specific sexual activity.”

The ASB found the advertisement was intended to be a “humorous depiction”; however, the depiction of the woman as a burger was “exploitive of women and degrading”.

“The close-up image of the woman’s bottom and the portrayal of her bottom as a burger likened the woman to a piece of meat or object for consumption and objectified women,” the board found.

“The Board considered that the image is sexualised and that the use of the image in conjunction with the words ‘… fun between the buns’ was a sexually related innuendo.”

In response to the ruling the company said it would not be using the advertisement again, but said it had received support that the ad was not offensive.

Using sexuality in advertising is commonplace, and in the past year many companies have come under scrutiny from the ASB for overly sexualised advertisements.

In October last year Adelaide-based lingerie brand Innerware was forced to pull a television ad after the board deemed it inappropriate.

The ad had featured a scantily-clad woman entering a mechanics shop and asking men if they could fit her.

Dr Lauren Rosewarne of the University of Melbourne previously told SmartCompany sexuality has been used in advertising since the 1700s.

“What we see as sexy may have changed, but using sexuality in advertising has been very consistent since it first appeared,” she says.

“We talk about the mainstreaming of pornography where aspects of porn culture have started to appear in mainstream advertisements, but it’s difficult to determine these days what is mainstream advertising when it comes in many different forms.”

Rosewarne says for advertisers considering using sexual content, what is and isn’t acceptable is often dictated by the advertising medium.

“If you look at what’s shown on billboards for example, this means any audience can see it, including three-year-olds and older people. Whereas you can be more selective and targeted if you advertise in a magazine or a television show in a later time slot,” she says.

“Sexuality is a really easy technique of advertising, you don’t have to be clever, it’s a default position everyone can do since it doesn’t rely on artistry or clever words or humour, but it keeps getting used because it validates itself.”