A FERTILITY clinic commercial that shows a woman giving birth does not offend community standards and is acceptable viewing for children, the national advertising watchdog has ruled in a decision set to further polarise opinion on the use of babies' images to promote in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
The ads for Genea, formerly Sydney IVF, depict a woman in labour and holding her newly delivered infant. Screened in September and distributed online, it is the first time a real birth has been used in an Australian advertisement.
A complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau claimed the PG-rated ad, produced by Sydney agency Rhodes Shapter, was too graphic and inappropriate for screening when children may be watching. Genea responded that it wanted to''express what we are about in a beautiful, respectful and tasteful way'' and the film was discreetly shot to avoid portraying sexuality or nudity.
In the board's report, finalised last month, it agreed ''the woman's modesty is preserved [and] the overall effect is tasteful … Most people would not consider it inappropriate for such images to be seen by children who are viewing PG programs.''
But Sandra Dill, the executive director of the IVF support and advocacy group Access Australia, said the film - and related print ads featuring babies under 10 hours old - might be distressing to fertility patients.
''I think if you've had a couple of [IVF] cycles it could be very confronting, [although] people who've yet to seek treatment might find it encouraging,'' Ms Dill said.
''Our experience has been people on [fertility] programs find images of babies confronting because they seem so elusive.''
A professor of reproductive and periconceptual medicine at the University of Adelaide, Robert Norman, said: ''I've been told repeatedly patients don't like pictures.''
Professor Norman said that in his own practice, baby photos sent by former patients were ''pinned on the staff noticeboard, not the doctors' noticeboard'', so people struggling to conceive would not see them.
A director of IVF Australia, Michael Chapman, said a voluntary advertising code within the sector had foundered several years ago because, ''various clinics felt [the restrictions] didn't meet their needs''.
The promotion of fertility treatments had since defaulted to Medical Board of Australia guidelines, which Professor Chapman described as ''minimalistic''.
''I would say all advertising that involves success rates, claims of new technologies and the emotive stuff that goes on [should] just be banned,'' he said.
Infertility largely falls outside the scope of federal health advertising legislation, which restricts promotion of treatment for a range of serious conditions, including heart disease and mental illness.
Genea's medical director, Mark Bowman, said: ''We decided if we were going to be real we needed real babies and real people. It's certainly not a stylised, glowing, made-up mother.''