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ASA bans Tourism Australia poster campaign

LONDON - The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld 32 complaints about posters for Tourism Australia and Qantas Airlines that featured the phrase 'So where the bloody hell are you?' and ordered the posters to be taken down.

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The series of three posters, created by M&C Saatchi for Tourism Australia and Qantas Airlines, featured scenes of Australia and contained the words "bloody hell" in the text.

One showed the Sydney Opera House at night with text that stated: "We've switched on the lights. And the champagne's on board. So where the bloody hell are you?" The second showed a woman swimming with a whale shark and text that said: "She's been on a strict plankton diet. And all she needs is someone to play with. So where the bloody hell are you?" The third poster featured waiters and a set dining table in the open air with Ayres Rock in the background. The text stated: "We've polished the silver. And checked under the table for goannas. So where the bloody hell are you?"

The ASA received 32 complaints from people who found the swearing offensive and were concerned because it was featured on a poster children might see.

Qantas Airways said it was unable to comment on issues raised by the complainants as its input was restricted to the second half of the poster, which gave details of the Qantas price offer.

Tourism Australia said that it regretted any offence that had been caused as this was not its intention. It said the aim of the campaign was to extend a hospitable welcome in a uniquely Australian manner and the poster was targeted at an older audience who it felt would understand the irreverent Australian tone of voice.

Tourism Australia acknowledged that it was more difficult with an outdoor campaign but said it had concentrated the posters in areas where it believed an older audience would be more likely to see them.

The ASA upheld the complaints and told Tourism Australia to remove the posters and not to use swear words in future poster advertising.

It acknowledged that the intention had been to aim the poster at an adult audience but noted that although the posters had mostly been displayed near main roads, they were not exclusively targeted at adults and were still easily visible to children.

Tourism Australia's use of the phrase in TV and press ads has previously attracted complaints, resulting in the ASA stepping in during May and July 2006.

On those occasions, the ASA said that it made clear that the phrase's acceptability depended on the context of its use, and the media in which the ad that contained it appeared.

It imposed the restriction that the TV ad containing the words "bloody hell" should be broadcast only after 9pm, when children were less likely to be watching.

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