Devondale milk ad “racist” according to advertising standards watchdog

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 8th September 2014
Devondale milk ad “racist” according to advertising standards watchdog
Devondale milk ad “racist” according to advertising standards watchdog

The Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) has upheld a complaint against a 15 second television commercial for Devondale milk, finding that the commercial vilified a man of Asian background and Asian business generally.

The television campaign depicts a group of people dressed in typical corporate attire, attempting to run a dairy farm. It is immediately apparent that these people have no farming skills, as they look totally out of place attempting to complete tasks around the farm. The farm is a typical Australian dairy farm. The ads are made up of a series of vignettes, depicting a range of individuals who would be much more at home in an office environment, trying to go about the daily tasks involved in running a dairy farm.

The commercial prompted complaints from television viewers who believed the advertisement was “very racist and demeaning to Asians”, and that the advertisement implied that Murray Goulburn, who owns the Devondale brand, “is better suited because it only employs male Australian farmers”.

Murray Goulburn said it took “very seriously” the issues raised in the complaints regarding discrimination and/or vilification based on race or gender. The Company said the storyline in the campaign “lightheartedly portrays corporate executives as being less qualified to run a dairy farm and produce milk than dairy farmers”, and that all the characters depicted in the campaign were “equally incompetent” at undertaking tasks around the farm.

“We have consciously included both genders and a diversity of appearance within the cast,” Murray Goulburn said in response to the complaints. “We feel that the range of ages, genders and appearances is indicative of a typical Australian corporate environment,” it said.

However, the ASB noted that the 15 second advertisement focused on an Asian man in a suit attempting to herd cows into a milking shed, while a voice over stated that “some businesses have no business making your milk”. The ASB noted that while a diverse range of characters from different groups appeared in a 60 second commercial that was part of the campaign, the 15 second version of the advertisement “did not capture the humour in the same way and was vilifying the man and Asian business”. The ASB Board agreed that the use of this particular character from the full length advertisement to make into one of the shorter versions amounted to a depiction which discriminates against a section of the community based on race and that it did breach Section 2.1 of the Code.

Finding that the advertisement did breach the Code, the Board upheld the complaints.

Murray Goulburn said the 15 second commercial was no longer on air as its rotation in the media schedule was complete, and that there were no plans to run this particular commercial in the future.

“We note the Board’s concerns outlined in the determination regarding this particular execution and acknowledge that these concerns do not apply to the campaign as a whole,” Murray Goulburn said.