[SMK] Social Media Knowledge


CUB Ad “Vilifies Red Heads”

It was meant to be a light-hearted advertisement to support a new product campaign.

Instead, the Ad Standards Community Panel found a Carlton & United Breweries advertisement breached the AANA Code of Ethics.


CUB ran a promotion to support the launch of its Rusty Yak Gingery Ale. Consumers who found a bottle of the product (a “red head”) in a standard Yak Ale 6 pack could redeem it for $500.

Quite a clever concept. However, the ad stated that the aim was to stop the spread of the “ginger gene” lurking in the population.

Complaints alleged the ad ridiculed a group of people in breach of s2.1 of the AANA Code of Ethics which states:

Advertisements shall not portray or depict material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual preference, religion, disability, mental illness or political belief.

Can you vilify on account of hair colour?

CUB argued hair colour is not an attribute that falls within the categories of race, ethnicity, nationality etc, under s2.1, and that the ad was intended to be humorous and not designed to offend.

The Panel considered the practice note for s2.1 which defines “race” in broad terms including colour, descent or ancestry, ethnicity and nationality, and also referenced a 2012 finding that an ad featuring the words “less popular than a red-headed step-child” breached s2.1 because it overstepped the mark between humour and vilification of an identifiable group.

Accordingly, the complaints were upheld.

The lesson

Ads which poke fun at sections of the population are bound to attract complaints.

It’s important to critically review your campaign from all angles and perspectives to ensure your ad doesn’t cross the line.

David Kelly is the founder of KHQ Approved, which offers fixed fee solutions across a range of areas (including marketing law and contract review).  Peace of mind from an experienced team for a reasonable price.

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