Advertising Standards Board rules against Marriage Alliance rainbow noose ad
The Advertising Standards Board (ASB) has ruled against the Marriage Alliance for a social media post which depicted an office worker with a rainbow noose around her neck and the accompanying message: ‘same sex marriage increases PC bullying in the workplace’.
The image was posted to Twitter and Facebook in February and immediately garnered complaints from the LGBTI community and its allies.
Complainants argued the post was totally inappropriate and against community standards.
“The depiction of a person seemingly about to commit suicide by a specific method, as is done in this advertisement, is highly distressing for friends and relatives of people who have died by suicide and people with a past history of suicidal ideation,” wrote one complainant.
Another complaint said: “The cause being promoted by the advertisement, opposition to marriage equality, is in no way related to anti-suicide advocacy in such a way that could justify the depiction of a woman about to hang herself. Additionally, anti-suicide organisation noted that depictions of means of suicide are highly likely to be harmful.”
Responding to the complaints, the Marriage Alliance suggested its ‘advertisement fell within the grounds of what is acceptable for political advertising and should fall outside of the jurisdiction of the ASB".
Currently the ABS defines political advertising as “advertising that attempts to influence or comment upon a matter which is currently the subject of extensive political debate”.
Defending the controversial post the Marriage Alliance told the ASB: “You will be aware that our organisation is preparing for, and engaging in the preliminary stages of a political campaign concerning, inter alia, the proposed alterations to the definition of “marriage” and “family” throughout the Commonwealth.
“This is a highly contentious political debate that has attracted a great deal of press and commentary.
“Accordingly, it is our view that our communications fall under the exclusion of “political advertising” as per the information on your website. We therefore question the jurisdiction of the Advertising Standards Bureau in this matter but have decided to provide this response as a sign of good faith, on a without prejudice and no admissions basis, and with all rights reserved.”
The Marriage Alliance described their advertisement as symbolic and suggested it shouldn’t be open to literal interpretation.
The Marriage Alliance wrote: “[It is] a figurative dramatization of the pressures that employees have felt as a result of politically correct thought and speech policing in the work environment.
“The symbolism in the image uses visual metaphor and analogy to convey meaning. This meaning is reinforced and highlighted by way of the explicit statement contained in the embedded text.”
Regardless of the Marriage Alliance's arguments, the ASB found the depiction of a woman with a noose around her neck still contravened standards.
Mumbrella reports the ABS said regardless of whether an image is suggestive of suicide or not, the placement of a noose around the woman’s neck is a graphic depiction of an activity which leads to serious harm or death.
The board described the image as extreme and said it was a “depiction of violence which is not justifiable in the content of the product or service advertised”.
In their determination the board also made note it is common practice in response to publication of material related to suicide that accompanying information is made available to assist people who may be troubled by the information.
"This has become standard practice in both the print and television industries and the Marriage Alliance had failed to provide such information," the board said.
If you or someone you know is in need of immediate assistance, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
If you want to talk to someone call QLife LGBTI counselling on 1800 184 527. QLife has online chat at www.qlife.org.au – phones and chat operate 5.30pm to 10.30pm, 7 days a week.