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Battle of the billboards

By Wendy Francis - posted Monday, 10 May 2010

On the fence-line of one of Brisbane’s most prestigious boy’s schools there is a billboard advertising for “Two Naughty Bars” featuring highly sexual imagery of women.

Monday to Friday to and from school, students of Brisbane Boys Grammar School are forced to digest these images as they can’t just "switch it off".

Is it a coincidence that this advertising is found outside a boy’s school? Or is this “clever” marketing? An Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) spokeswoman recently stated that a billboard’s ‘‘audience’’ depended on the location and placement of the billboard.


Recently we saw the demise of the Liberal Treasurer in WA after it was discovered that he was having an affair with a Greens Senator. Our society does not condone this bad behaviour. We value honesty, faithfulness and integrity. It’s part of being Aussie. And yet, in contravention of prevailing community standards, in Brisbane alone, we have such billboards promoting a “gentleman’s clubs” with slogans such as “Tell your wife you’ll be home late”.

This particular billboard was the third most complained about billboard in Australia last year. The complaints were dismissed by the ASB, the billboard remained and two other identical billboards went up around the city.

So, next time a Dad phones home from work and says to his kids, “Tell mum I’ll be home late tonight”, are they left wondering where he really is and who he is spending his evening with rather than being home with them?

How can the ASB seriously claim to be representing prevailing community standards?

Industry observers say the bureau is sending mixed messages. Professor Sandra Jones, from the Centre for Health Initiatives at Wollongong University, says: ''On the one hand they are saying they want to give consumers a voice and show advertisers boundaries, yet on the other they continue to dismiss complaints.''

On Friday, April 23, I held a summit on outdoor advertising. Representatives from the National Civic Council, Australian Family Association, Collective Shout, LNP, Body Matters as well as authors on the topic and child psychologists were in attendance. The purpose of the summit was to plan a way ahead to change the current self-regulatory nature of the Advertising Standards Bureau which is clearly not working and not representative of prevailing community standards.


The CEO of the Outdoor Media Association, Charmain Mudorich, also attended the summit and noted that the ethics codes with regard to billboard placement mentions that ads for alcohol aren’t allowed within a certain range from schools. So, does that mean billboards for sex bars are less destructive?

Our children inhabit our public spaces. But images and messages that would not be allowed on TV before late night viewing so as to protect the innocence of our children are then forced upon the general public in the outdoors.

The involuntary nature of exposure to these images undermines the authority of parents to determine the content their children view. Experts agree that the sexualisation of our culture is having a negative impact on our children, but the ASB do not consult child development professionals when deliberating on complaints that are about children being exposed to sexualised imagery or text.

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About the Author

Wendy Francis is the director of the Australian Christian Lobby’s Centre for Human Dignity. Prior to this Wendy has served in managerial positions at the Centre for Public Culture and Ideas at Griffith University and also Queensland Baptists. Wendy also ran for a senate position with Family First in 2010. She commenced a campaign in 2009 calling for outdoor advertising to be G rated.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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