New Decisions: Motorway Billboard, Facebook Posts and More

The following decisions have been published:

Billboard Likely to Cause Offence

The New Zealand Aids Foundation had a billboard advertisement that appeared near the off-ramp of an Auckland motorway. The advertisement was part of the Ending HIV programme and showed the image of a shirtless man from the mid-chest up.  The text says “I bring condoms. You bring lube. What’s your rule?”  It showed the Ending HIV logo and the URL “” with the word ‘fuck’ obscured.

The Complainant was concerned the billboard advertisement was not the correct medium for such a deliberately provocative and sexually explicit message, given that children would be exposed to it.

The Advertiser said the advertisement was part of the community-focused HIV prevention programme and the placement of the billboard was chosen due to its proximity to Karangahape Road, a well-known area for gay men to congregate with several gay bars within one kilometre of the billboard.

The Complaints Board said the identity of the Advertiser was not sufficiently clear to allow for a more liberal interpretation of the Advertising Standards Code, which may otherwise have been available under the Advocacy Principles.

The Complaints Board agreed the placement of the advertisement on a billboard at a set of traffic lights as motorists left the motorway meant the Advertiser would reach an unrestricted audience.  The Complaints Board said the likelihood of children being exposed to the adult message in the advertisement was high, given the close proximity of several schools in the area and the advertisement was likely to cause both serious and widespread offence. Accordingly, the Complaints Board ruled the complaint was Upheld.

Alcoholic Energy Drink Breaches Advertising Standards

A complaint was made about four Facebook posts on the National Brands Nitro page. The four advertisements were O Week, Up for a Blinder, Sleep when You’re Dead and Weekend Bonding. The advertisements varied in their imagery and all included the text “NITRO is the STRONGEST VODKA ENERGY RTD formulation, so not for the weak or faint hearted!”

The Complainant was concerned the advertisements promote the alcoholic strength of the product and encourage immoderate drinking. The Complainant said an element of the advertising suggests alcohol can lead to sexual success.  They were also concerned the Facebook page and website were not limited to 18+ audiences.

The Advertiser said the references to strength in the advertisements were about the product’s energy formulation level.  It said there were no instructions to drink to excess and the advertisements were hyperbolic. The Complaints Board noted the Advertiser had settings in place which restricts people under 18 from accessing the Facebook page and website and this restriction was also in place for any paid boosted posts.

The Complaints Board agreed that although the Advertiser said the “strongest energy RTD formulation” claim made in the advertisements refers to caffeine levels, the consumer focus was likely to be on the alcoholic strength of the product and not the caffeine content. The Complaints Board also agreed the messages in the advertisements encouraged irresponsible or immoderate drinking. Furthermore, the Board said there was an undeniable sexual element to the fourth advertisement and this connection suggested that alcohol can lead to sexual success or popularity. Accordingly, The Complaints Board ruled the complaint was Upheld in part.