Watchdog clears MLA over beef ad complaint

James Nason, 03/08/2021

It has been a roller coaster ride for Meat & Livestock Australia’s red meat advertising campaigns in recent weeks.

The levy-funded red meat marketing and research body last week received bouquets for its latest national lamb advertising campaign ‘Make Lamb Not Walls’, which took out the ‘TV Ad of the year’ and ‘Ad Campaign of the Year’ at The Mumbrella marketing industry awards.

Amidst that success came brickbacks as well from some viewers who labelled MLA’s latest beef ad, developed to coincide with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, as “sexist” and “misogynistic”, with their complaints sparking an investigation by Australia’s advertising standards body.

The advertisement (below) features Australian Olympic javelin thrower and reigning world champion, Kelsey-Lee Barber, and her brother “Greg” at a dinner table reaching simultaneously with their forks for the last piece of beef.

Kelsey comments that she is working towards breaking a record at the Olympics while Greg replies that he too has a record to break, as the advert cuts to footage of him at a local games arcade competing on a dance machine. The mum then comments that Greg has been “trying to break that record for years” and suggests Kelsey let Greg have the last piece of beef, before the advert closes with the line “Packed with protein. Feed your everyday greatness with beef.”

The Ad Standards Community Panel said it received complaints – the number of which were not disclosed – expressing concern that the ad was sexist “by suggesting that the man is more worthy than the woman”.

However, after investigating the advertisment the panel dismissed the complaints, ruling it did not portray or depict material in a way which discriminated against or vilified a person or section of the community on account of gender.

“Highly satirical”

In its determination the panel considered that the advertisement was “highly satirical” and noted that the intention of the advertisement was to highlight “how ridiculous it is that the man considers his goal of record breaking an arcade dance game to be comparable to his sister’s goal of breaking a world record”.

The Panel said it considered that the relationship depicted was not related to gender but rather was indicative of sibling rivalry and the content of the advertisement did not show the woman to receive unfair or less favourable treatment because of her gender, and did not humiliate, intimidate or incite hatred, contempt or ridicule of the woman because of her gender.

In its submission to the panel, MLA said the context of the advert was that greatness means different things to different people – “from the heights of Olympic athletic achievement to more day to day achievements which are nevertheless equally important to the person trying to achieve their personal best in their own way”.

The message of the advert was that “whatever your personal greatness, you can help feed it with the natural source of protein in beef”.

“The advert conveys that beef has benefits for everyone, not just elite athletes – and it uses a humorous and obviously dramatized depiction of sibling rivalry to convey this message.

“… MLA strongly rejects the assertions that the advert is discriminatory or vilifying on account of gender in any way. The reasonable viewer is likely to appreciate that the advert plays on friendly sibling rivalry to convey the message that beef has benefits for everyone – not just elite athletes.”

Popular target

MLA’s beef and lamb ads have won numerous marketing industry awards but have also been the target of complaints 32 times in  the past 23 years, according to the Ad Standards website.

However, the record also shows that most complaints have lacked substance, with only two being upheld in that time.

One was a 2017 lamb advertisement which depicted “various religious/mythical leaders/Gods/characters” seated around a table enjoying a meal together, in which the board ruled the advertiser had not given adequate consideration “to how seriously some Australians take their religious views”.

The other was a 2009 four-page print advertorial in which each page was marked as an advertisement and which repeated the theme “Red Meat – We were meant to eat it”. The board determined that, while much of the nutritional and dietary information  contained in the advertorial was beneficial to the community and to children, the advertorial did not fairly represent “in a manner that is clearly understandable to children” that the advertisement was a commercial communication.

‘Strongest results from an advertisement yet’

Meanwhile MLA said its award-winning “Make Lamb Not Walls” has not only attracted advertising industry kudos, but has also produced some of the strongest results the organisation has ever seen from an advertisement.

The ad became Australia’s No.1 trending YouTube video, viewed over 10,000,000 times, with a staggering 1421 media outlets talking about the campaign, as part of its PR outreach.

“We also saw Aussies buy more lamb more often with sales growth increasing by 16.8pc, volume per occasion up 5.6pc, and purchase frequency up 2.6pc,” said MLA General Manager of Marketing and Insights, Nathan Low.



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  1. Anne colwell, 31/08/2021

    Why not just cut it in half!

  2. Karen Jackson, 08/08/2021

    Hilarious ad. Love the satire. Keep up the good work!

  3. Jill Oats, 08/08/2021

    The beef industry ad might be satirical, however the message is still very clear that “Greg’s” goals are more important to the parents! A better outcome would have been for the parents insist that the last (very large) slice of beef was shared, thus negating the “sibling rivalry”. A very disappointing ad in this day and age!

  4. Andy Brown, 08/08/2021

    Makes a change from the misandrist rubbish advertisers put up

  5. Ross Williams, 07/08/2021

    Some people need to get a better perspective in life. The add is what they wanted it to be, funny and yes I now know who Kelsey Barber is.

  6. AussieFayzer, 07/08/2021

    I absolutely love your clever ads, with the latest one brilliantly timed with the Olympics.

    I’m concerned that those people who find fault could possibly be vegetarians, and in that case have a vested interest in having meat ads deleted.

    We seem to live in an age where complaints become a necessity for some people. This is not the case for my family as we appreciate clever advertising, and happen to enjoy Australian beef.

  7. Gary Phillips, 07/08/2021

    If spoilt brother Gregs mother had allow kelsey to have the last or shared the beef she mart have finished with a silver or gold medal in Japan shame on you Mum HA HA HA.

  8. I hope the mother is ashamed, clearly cost her daughter the gold medal!!!

  9. John Montgomery, 07/08/2021

    The advert provided humour and interesting information along with the intended message. I hadn’t heard of Kelsey-Lee Barber, but it provoked an interest in the javelin events at the Olympics.
    A cup half empty person will always somehow find a negative to focus on and thus miss all the positives that can be drawn from most situations that can inform and inspire others with a more positive outlook that propels them forward.

  10. Marie, 07/08/2021

    Gosh! The advert is so blatantly satirical. And funny. And it works. Why should Greg get the meat? Kelsey is obviously more deserving. Greg’s world is small. Kelsey is on the world’s stage. Yet Greg adores himself as his mother does. If there is any put-down, it’s aimed at Greg. Kelsey’s status is apparent and elevated. Further to that, Kelsey-Lee Barbar is now a known athlete – I had never heard of her before – oh and congrats to her on the medal 🏅 – mind you, she achieved it without eating the meat (not sure if that’s the message the meat industry wanted 😉).

    • John Montgomery, 07/08/2021

      I think one message was not to skimp on buying the meat, make sure you have enough for the whole family. 😉

  11. Lorraine Warren, 06/08/2021

    I feel sorry for the mother in this add, most mother’s would say share it, so I guess a male wrote the wording in this add

  12. Dayle McCleish, 06/08/2021

    This advert goes against everything women have been working towards for generations! You’ve just put women back 20 years and made a joke of equality!

  13. Stephen Dinham, 04/08/2021

    The regulator got it wrong and public opinion is firmly against this add, which we mute every time it comes on. Your response which is self-congratulatory is also tone deaf. A “strong response” doesn’t mean endorsement.

  14. Michelle Strongman, 04/08/2021

    Great decision ASCP. One really has to wonder at he ‘undisclosed’ number of idiots who couldn’t see this advertisement for what it was. A little bit of ridiculous humour. I didn’t know who Kelsey-Lee was until I saw the add, so for me it raised ‘her’ (a woman’s) profile – anything but misogynistic.

  15. David Bechaz, 04/08/2021

    So, even if they reversed the roles, the bleeding hearts would still play the “sexist” card. People, it’s humour.
    Great ad MLA. As usual. Keep up the great work.
    Ps. If Kelsey doesn’t medal, we all know who to blame…… Bloody Greg. Haha

  16. Brigitte Rouesnel, 04/08/2021

    I loved the add

  17. Gaille Doust, 04/08/2021

    The olympic based advert is one of the funniest in a long time, as it is ridiculous to see it as anything else but good fun marketing. The second one is more political and correct. What about our Federation that has been eroded away with all our power hungry Premeirs. We are being ruled by little hitlers.

  18. Glen Burke, 03/08/2021

    It appears that some people need to eat more red meat to increase their brain capacity. The ad clearly implies that people’s everyday goals are their “Olympic” moment and should be celebrated as much as an elite athlete.
    Well done MLA and congratulations to the Ad Standards Community Panel for applying commonsense to the complaints.

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