Skip to main content
News 3 Nov 2021 - 3 min read

Grill’d ad by The Monkeys found in breach of ethics code for violence, sexuality

By Sam Buckingham-Jones - Senior Writer
Grill'd burger chain hit by Ad Standards decision

Ad Standards' community panel found the depiction of a clown opening a trench coat in the dark alley was “a strong suggestion … that the children were being sexually harassed”.

An ad from Grill'd showing a burger-shaped superhero taking down a red and yellow clown has been found in breach of the Code of Ethics by Ad Standards. Its depiction of violence to sell burgers was not justified, Ad Standards found, and there were some overtly sexualised elements to the ad. 

What you need to know:

  • An ad from Grill’d, created by The Monkeys, has been found in breach of the AANA’s Code of Ethics for unjustifiable violence and sexuality.
  • The ad shows a burger fighting a clown resembling Ronald McDonald, who had been showing two children toys hidden in a trench coat.
  • Ad Standards’ community panel found the ad conveyed a strong suggestion the children were being sexually harassed.

An animated TV commercial for burger chain Grill’d, created by The Monkeys, has been found in breach of the advertising Code of Ethics for portraying unjustifiable violence and sexuality.

The ad shows an animated clown resembling McDonald’s mascot in an alleyway opening a trench coat in front of two small children. The coat is shown to be full of plastic toys. A burger-shaped superhero appears, and the clown pulls out a knife concealed in his shoe. The superhero then throws sharp wooden sticks at the clown, pinning him to a wall.

The ad received a series of complaints, including that it infers McDonalds is a child molester, that the clown is exposing himself, and that it claims the burgers are “righteous” and healthier than others.

Ad Standards, the regulatory body that rules on advertising based on the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ (AANA) Code of Ethics, dismissed most of the complaints. The claim the burgers are righteous was clearly “advertising puffery”, something the audience would realise. Likewise, the body found the burger chain could legitimately describe its burgers as “natural”, “sustainable” and “healthy”.

Rather, the panel was split on the violence and sexuality in the ad.

“The majority of the Panel considered that the opening scene of the advertisement, where the children were cornered in the alley and the clown opens his trench coat, was menacing and suggestive of sexualised violence,” Ad Standards found.

“The Panel considered that even though the moment was resolved as being the clown showing the children toys in his coat, the suggestion of sexual violence at the start of the advertisement was extremely inappropriate in an advertisement for burgers.”

The ad was deemed to breach Section 2.3, which states that ads shall not present violence unless it is “justifiable in the context of the product or service advertised”.

Ad Standards also found the clown opening his trench coat in the dark alley was “a strong suggestion … that the children were being sexually harassed”.

“The Panel considered that the sexual suggestion in the advertisement was not treated with sensitivity to an audience which would include children.”

In response, Grill’d said it would take steps to modify the ad to reflect Ad Standards’ concerns.

Mi3 Special Report: Australia Post-Cookies, Post-Privacy

  • How brands including ANZ, CommBank, Adore Beauty, Little Birdie, Menulog and Westpac are racing for new privacy-compliant ways to market to customers as platform and regulatory changes bite.
  • Report covers all of Australia‘s major publishers, their strategies.
  • All major alternative IDs covered.
  • Plus marketing consultancies, tech provider and agency insights.
  • Independent Mi3 report, based on 35-plus interviews, supported by MiQ and Resolution Digital.

How brands including CommBank, Adore Beauty, Little Birdie, Menulog and more are racing for new privacy-compliant ways to market to customers as platform and regulatory changes bite.

Get ahead of the curve. DOWNLOAD THE REPORT HERE DOWNLOAD your 67-page report here.

Already a member? . Not a member? Start the process:

Download Now
Australia Post-Cookies, Post-Privacy

Share your reaction (and see how others voted)

Leave a comment (you must be logged in)

Be the first to comment

Market Voice

Search Mi3 Articles

Make it personal

Join Mi3 to receive our weekly edition and personalise your experience