In a pickle over burger ad.

24 November 2021 | Reading time: 2 minutes

Key takeaways

  • On 13 October 2021, the Ad Standards Community Panel (Panel) found that a Grill’d ad breached sections 2.3 and 2.4 of the AANA Code of Ethics (Code) because it used violence inappropriately and suggested sexual violence towards children.
  • Use of animated or cartoon characters, simple themes (such as ‘good vs evil’), music and easy to understand lyrics are factors that increase an ad’s appeal to children.
  • Broad claims, such as ‘righteous burgers’, constitute mere puffery and are not misleading.
  • Advertisers must ensure their claims are truthful and honest and should be prepared to substantiate any such claims to the standard of an average consumer in the target market.

The ingredients for controversy
The ad shows a cartoon clown lookalike of McDonald’s mascot, Ronald McDonald, menacingly cornering 2 children in a dark alleyway and opening his trench coat, which is then shown to reveal toys. It proceeds to show a fight between a burger superhero and the clown, with the clown ultimately being pinned to the wall with his pants falling down.

Grill’d cops a grilling
Various complaints were submitted about the ad, including that it:

  • breached section 2.1 of the Code by claiming that Grill’d burgers are sustainable, healthy, natural and righteous in a way that was false or misleading;
  • breached sections 2.4 and 2.6 of the Code by using, or encouraging children to use, violence;
  • breached section 2 of the AANA Environmental Code by implying a false environmental claim that Grill’d burgers are natural and sustainable; and
  • breached sections 2.3 and 2.4 through inappropriate use of violence and suggesting sexual violence towards children.

The Panel determined that the ad contravened sections 2.3 and 2.4 of the Code because it portrayed violence in a way that was inappropriate in the context of the product advertised and did not treat sex, sexuality, and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience (which included children). All other complaints were dismissed.

The Panel considered the ad to have principal appeal to children through use of animation, song and a ‘good vs evil’ theme. However, it was not subject to the AANA Code for Advertising and Marketing Communications to Children because it promoted the Grill’d burger chain, which is of general appeal to adults and children.

Complaints that the ad misleadingly claimed the burgers to be sustainable, healthy, natural and righteous were dismissed because they were able to be substantiated or constituted mere puffery (eg ‘righteous’).