Australian TV viewers have complained to the region’s Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) about the way a Maltesers advert (watch it in full below) promoted (or perhaps vilified) homosexuality.
The ad showed two couples in front of the TV — the boys have fallen asleep, while the girls are sharing a pack of Maltesers chocolates. The girls decide to play a trick on the boys and place them in an embrace. The boys proceed to snuggle into each other and one man kisses the other, without either fully waking up. It’s an ad that has been airing other markets, such as the UK, for years.
As AdNews first reported, the ad raised a number of complaints: From those accusing the advertiser of encouraging young people to be gay, to a complaint that Maltesers was ridiculing gay people.
According to the ASB’s case file, one complaint reads: “I find it very offensive that while I’m watching tv with my child that an ad with a man kiss another man to come on to try and sell chocolates just like smoking and drinking alcohol leads to young people to do these things I feel strong that advertising homosexuals is try to turn young people gay.”
Another complaint said: “The two women place their boyfriends in a sexual/suggestive position while they are asleep. They are seen to kiss. The two women then laugh at what they have done. This ad is offensive because it continues to perpetuate the idea that being gay or male closeness is something to be ridiculed and laughed at.”
In response to the complaints, Maltesers owner Mars Confectionery said the ad was intended to be “playful” and “innocent,” and that it would be inappropriate to assume the men are of any kind of sexual orientation just because they have been positioned to hug each other by the females in the ad.
The company added: “We submit that almost all viewers would … realise that it was not aimed at the discrimination or vilification or is otherwise derogatory towards gay people or male closeness.
The ASB dismissed the complaints, ruling in the adjudication that the concern that the depiction of the men in the ad would encourage young people to turn gay is an “unlikely interpretation and not one that is likely to be shared by the broader community.”
On the issue that the ad promoted the idea that being gay or male closeness is something to be ridiculed, the ASB said the practical joke carried out by the girls in the ad was “not a derogatory sentiment toward homosexual men and did not depict material which discriminates against or vilifies a person on account of sexual preference.”
Here’s the Maltesers “Boyfriends” TV ad:
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