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‘Distressing’ insurance ad pulled despite disaster prevention theme

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Complaints labelling a bushfire-focused NRMA Insurance advertisement “distressing” have been upheld by the advertising standards watchdog – despite the campaign promoting a disaster prevention message and being created in close consultation with emergency responders.

The TV ad asks residents to “dedicate the first Saturday of every month towards making your home safer”.

But some viewers complained that scenes of intense fire and references to past catastrophes were “disturbing” and “upsetting”.

The Advertising Standards Community Panel found the broadcast breached section 2.3 of the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics for depicting unjustifiable “violence”, particularly in the light of last summer’s devastating fires.

However, the decision was not unanimous and NRMA Insurance parent IAG argued it had not breached the code.

“The panel noted the fearful faces of the firefighters, the sounds of the sirens, panicked voices and the vision of the thick smoke and roaring flames and considered that these combined to create a very strong impression of threat and menace,” the ruling says.

“The majority of the panel considered that the use of the menacing footage, which would be distressing to many people viewing this advertisement, was not justified in the context of providing a home safety message and promoting an insurance brand.”

IAG noted it created the campaign in detailed consultation with the NSW Rural Fire Service, NSW State Emergency Service and the Australian Red Cross.

“We strongly assert that the TV ad does not portray any form of violence or menace and does not contravene this section of the code,” it says in its response.

“The scenes are intended to be emotionally impactful; however, we believe this is justifiable in the context of an important campaign which aims to inspire the community to take action to minimise risks around the home.”

After the panel ruling IAG agreed to discontinue the ad. But an NRMA Insurance spokeswoman told the insurer remains committed to the underlying message.

“Our NRMA Insurance First Saturday campaign was created to help Aussies be better prepared for natural disasters,” she said.

“It encourages people to help our first responders, who do so much to protect the community, by doing a small task to make our homes safer on the first Saturday of every month.

“While we’ve had a great response to the First Saturday campaign overall, we acknowledge the concerns raised by some viewers, so we have removed the ad from TV and digital channels.

“Our purpose is to make your world a safer place and we will continue to encourage Aussie families to make their homes a little safer each month to help support our amazing first responders.

“Given the devastating fires of last summer, we know how important this is.”

Click here to read the full ruling.