Picture this: a scary-looking clown tries to entice children in an alley by opening his trench coat. The kids cower. Do we have your attention? Okay, great. It turns out the clown is just showing the kids all the cheap little toys he has hidden inside his coat. That’s the plot of a recent Australian burger chain commercial that was removed from television after many viewer complaints, reports Creative Bloq and Mumbrella.
The animated ad takes an obvious dig at McDonald’s, with the villain dressed in oversized red shoes, clown nose, red hair, and the face makeup as the universally recognized Ronald McDonald. The disheveled clown corners two kids in an alley alone (already putting parents on edge) and then appears to flash the children when he opens up his trench coat. Underneath, he’s got sad-looking plastic toys like what you might get in a Happy Meal.
Before things get too risky, a “righteous burger guy,” the mascot for the burger chain Grill’d, steps in to save the kids. At this moment, the back alley clown turns around, sees the burger guy, and takes off his giant clown shoe, which happens to be fitted with a shiv. Yeah, the clown has a shiv in his shoe. Burger guy and shady clown have a cool little fight scene, and the clown gets harpooned to the wall by his creepy coat.
And as if that all weren’t enough, the harpooned clown’s pants fall down while he’s pinned up on the wall, and the only thing that prevents the viewer from seeing his shame is an itty bitty cheekily placed flag with the Grill’d logo on it.
Needless to say, people freaked the hell out and demanded the commercial be taken down. One complaint read, “This ad portrayed flashing and also encourages children to possess and use knives and violence against each other.” The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics found the ad to be in violation of two sections of its code of ethics, one regarding depictions of violence and the other regarding nudity and sex.
Grill’d defended the violence and the implied nudity in the ad. “We note that the advertisement depicts some forms of violence in a mild animated form,” read a statement from the company. “The cartoon nature of the violence is consistent with animated superhero programs and is justifiable in the context of the product being advertised in this fashion.”
“We note this provision has been raised due to the depiction of the clown opening up his coat to the children,” Grill’d added. “We note however that the very next shot in the sequence clarifies that the clown is fully clothed underneath and is showing toys to the children. On this basis, we note it is clear to the audience that there is nothing sexual about this scene at all.”
After a panel determined the ad breached multiple rules, Grill’d agreed to modify the commercial to address these issues.
On the more surprising flipside, though, there were people on the internet who loved the animation. I have to admit, implying in any way that kids are being flashed by a grown man in an alley is not the best choice. But the “Righteous Burger Guy’’ theme song is going be stuck in my head all day. You can watch the full animated controversy for yourself here.