Complaints: Grocery Ad Was ‘Highly Offensive’ to Gay Men with Mustaches, Americans

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 1:06 pm, December 31, 2016

An Australian grocer is under siege over complaints that its new Christmas commercial is “highly offensive” to gay men with moustaches, and to Americans.

Aldi’s “Meet the Tinkletons” ad depicts a sweater-clad, high-maintenance American family who shows up at an Australian home in December. Singing to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” the Americans lecture their Australian counterparts about how to celebrate the holiday properly—until they are won over by the Aussies’ more relaxed approach to Christmas cheer.

The seemingly benign ad prompted numerous complaints, submitted to the Advertising Standards Bureau, Australia’s self-regulation system for advertisers.

“The Americans are portrayed as gaudy, pushy people who are ‘weird,’ while the Australians are apparently the ‘normal’ ones wearing conventional clothing and neutral appearance,” one complaint said. “Why is it okay to target Americans and ridicule them as a nationality?”

Another complaint focused on the ad’s “depiction of an overly camp acting mustachioed man,” the ASB’s case report noted.

“I am a gay man myself, and I like to think that society has come a long way in its perceptions toward same-sex individuals … My sexuality is not a tool to be used to sell stuff, or to make people laugh. Show some sensitivity,” other complaints stated.

Aldi fired back, saying the ad’s depiction of Americans is satirical, but not ill-intended or discriminatory.

Moreover, Aldi said that according to the script, the man with the mustache “is playing the husband of the mother of three children” –- and thus is not an “identifiably gay figure.”

The ABS sided with Aldi, but only after examining the commercial for other potential offenses.

For example, the ad shows an American popping out of a dishwasher to sing, with an Australian girl closing him back in—a scene that “could be seen as violent.”

But the ABS also notes that “the scene is very fleeting and the whole scene is clearly fantastical as it would not be possible for an adult male to lie flat on his back on the bottom tray of a domestic dishwasher. The Board acknowledged the health and safety concerns around children getting trapped inside white goods but considered that in this instance the depiction of a man in a dishwasher is unrealistic, very fleeting and extremely unlikely to encourage copycat behavior.”