The Sydney 2000 Olympics has also entered the fight. The Leichhardt Council in Sydney wanted the Joico ads removed, and it wants to ban all outdoor boards along the Olympic marathon route, which is set to run through the borough. The council eventually wants to remove all outdoor boards.
The council is invoking a 1920 federal law allowing a council to take action against "undesirable, degrading or defamatory advertising."
But the ASC judged the Joico ads using its self-regulatory Advertising Code of Ethics, which has federal government backing, and decided the objections were "merely subjective opinion." It ruled most "ordinary observers" would view the ads as "sexy but not sexist." The Leichhardt Council says it may take the case to Federal Court.
Australian agencies spend $200 million on outdoor boards, out of total ad spending of about $4.2 billion annually, with about $2.6 billion going to print and $1.3 billion to TV.
Joico outdoor boards were on 119 locations in five Australian state capitals as well as on eight "superboards" in two New Zea-land cities. The ASC received 22 written complaints, 14 from the Leichhardt area. None were from feminist groups.
Leichhardt councillors have "an anti-advertising agenda," said Janet Hogan, chief executive of Oddfellows Advertising, creators of the Joico ads. Many other councils support Leichhardt.
"Basically, they want to control all billboard advertising in boroughs," she said. "These complaints were just the thin end of the wedge-a good example of the medium becoming the message. If our visual had appeared in women's magazines, I'm sure we wouldn't have had any complaints. It was the billboard that the councillors responded to-the ad was timely for them, it was part of their overall agenda, and they were just waiting for something to complain about."
The modest $400,000 campaign has generated at least another $1 million worth of media exposure thanks to the council's objections, say industry observers. Ms. Hogan said Joico products are only sold through hair salons, and that the strategy was to get the trade more involved with the product.
Stage one just showed the girls posing provocatively with the word "Oi"-which in stage two became "Joico." Current ads announce: "Joico model search through hairdressing salons." In July, the agency will seek faces, culled from the model search, to feature in future Joico ads.