Watchdog dismisses domestic violence complaint against ad

Article by Cara Waters  /
The Sydney Morning Herald  /
November 24, 2015  /
Click here to view original  /

The Advertising Standards Board has dismissed complaints about a “anti-male violent” radio advertisement.

The advertisement for ADT Security features a man saying, “lights go on, light go off …” several times. The man is switching the lights on and off using his smartphone.

His telephone rings and when he answers it you hear a woman saying, “Seriously Matt, that light goes off again, so does yours”. He immediately responds by saying, “sorry”.

A disclaimer spoken quickly at the end of the advertisement says: “ADT are not responsible for any relationship breakdowns from the turning on and off of lights remotely”.

Promoting and trivialising domestic violence

The ASB received complaints the ad “promotes and trivialises domestic violence”.

“If the sexes were reversed, it would be more obvious,” one complaint said.

“In a time when we are trying to stop domestic violence this advertisement seems to think it is funny for a woman to threaten her male partner to put or punch his lights out. This is clearly a violent threat and it would not even have been considered if a male was threatening to put his female partner’s lights out … it would have created outrage … this sort of anti-male violent advertisement must stop!!!”

The ASB dismissed the complaints against the advertisement, finding that it did not present or portray violence and so does not breach the advertisers’ Code of Ethics.

It noted the suggestion by the woman that she will “turn his lights out” and agreed that most members of the community would understand this colloquial reference to mean “knock someone out”.

The ASB found “most members of the community” would find the advertisement humorous and would recognise it was not encouraging or condoning violence, but rather emphasising the familiar situation between couples when one person is behaving somewhat childishly and the partner reprimands in an adult manner.

“The board noted that overall the tone of the advertisement is a playful one and the type of banter commonly heard between couples in safe and loving relationships. The board agreed that the woman’s comment could be interpreted as being mildly violent but in the context of the advertisement considered that her words are not overtly threatening and are not delivered aggressively.”

Irreverent, cheeky promotion

ADT Security, which is part of Tyco Australia, defended the ad to the ASB on the basis that it is “an irreverent, cheeky promotion for ADT’s security system”.

ADT Security said as the advertisement is selling a home security product it “would not make sense from a commercial or practical perspective” that the use of the product would be associated with violence.

“It is important to set out from the outset that we do not condone or encourage domestic violence, or any kind of violence. ADT security as a company sells products that protect people’s safety and provides security to its customers, which is of the utmost importance to us,” ADT Security said in its response to the ASB.

ADT Security acknowledged the woman’s reference to “seriously Matt, that light goes off again, so do yours” could, without context, imply some sort of violence but it said “a reasonable person” would not interpret it in this way.

“It is a throwaway line that is commonly used to indicate frustration and does not incite or encourage violence towards anyone, male or female,” ADT Security said.

ADT Security marketing and communications manager, Kelly Valentine, says the ad is no longer on air.

“While we acknowledge a complaint was made against the advertisement, we were pleased to learn that the Advertising Standards Board found the advertisement did not present or portray violence,” she says.

Domestic violence shouldn’t be made light of

Dr Lauren Rosewarne, senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne, says domestic violence is no laughing matter.

“Just because some couples might use playful and jokingly threatening banter with one another, doesn’t mean such exchanges have a place in media, particularly media used to sell products,” she says. “Domestic violence remains an important social issue and shouldn’t be made light of as a ploy to sell security products.”

Rosewarne also says domestic violence can be equally directed towards a man.

“Just because a woman is threatening a man doesn’t mean it’s playful and doesn’t mean it should be dismissed as humorous.”