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Marriage Alliance ‘rainbow noose’ ad banned

NEWS  |  Kaley Payne

Tuesday 12 April 2016

The Advertising Standards Bureau has upheld complaints against a Marriage Alliance social media ad depicting a woman in the workplace with a rainbow noose around her neck. The ASB found the ad contravened the Advertising Code in its depiction of violence and reference to suicide.

The ad, which carried the tagline ‘Same sex marriage increases PC bullying in the workplace’, was the subject of several complaints when it was first posted in February this year. The ASB included a sample of complaints in its case report released this week, including one which read “It is totally inappropriate and against community standards to depict suicide in an advertisement. Particularly, 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 suicide ideation.”

Organisations including BeyondBlue also objected quickly on social media: Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 12.08.48 pm

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The “ad”.

The Marriage Alliance, a group of individual Christians with several Catholic affiliations, responded to the complaints first by questioning the ability of the Advertising Standards Bureau to regulate the social media post, claiming the ad falls under a political advertising exclusion, being part of the “highly contentious political debate” of same-sex marriage.

Complaints regarding political advertising are generally not considered by the ASB for several reasons, including the Board’s concerns to be seen as an “impartial adjudicator free from perceptions of political bias” and not wanting to “unduly restrict the implied constitutional freedom of political communication or interfere with the political process.”

The Marriage Alliance went on to defend the ad, suggesting it was not an “ad” but an “online meme” which is “a mere opinion represented in visual form”, unpaid and not tendering for business or promoting a product or service.

The Alliance said the image is a “figurative dramatisation 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.”

“The image of the rope is drawn from and informed by colloquial and vernacular discourse such as when a person is betrayed, fired, marginalised or ostracised… such a person may be described as ‘being hung out to dry’, ‘getting terminated’ or ‘being given the chop’ … These terms are etymologically related to death or dying but are never literally or even figuratively interpreted as endorsing or depicting any activity that leads to death; nor does the symbolism in the image.”

The ASB, in its deliberation, noted that same-sex marriage is a “current political concern” and so limited the complaint to the image used, not the accompanying text or political viewpoint. It held that the image breached the Advertising Standards Code in its depiction of an extreme consequence of bullying and “depiction of violence which is not justifiable in the context of the product or service advertised.”

Here is the response from the Marriage Alliance on Twitter this week, regarding the ASB’s determination:

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