ASA Public Relations News

Advertising Standards Authority reveal most offensive ads


By The Drum Team | Editorial

May 27, 2010 | 3 min read

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have released figures for their top 10 most public bothering adverts for 2009... and they make for surprising reading.

Displacing the obvious sex and violence it seems religion has got people hot under the (dog) collar this year, spurred by a controversial political advert from The Christian Party proclaiming categorically that: “There definitely is a god.”

This message wasn’t received well by 1,204 atheist bus users who lodged complaints to the ASA, pointing out that the existence or otherwise of hypothetical supernatural entities was unknowable. The ASA ruled however that as a party political ad it fell outwith their jurisdiction.

The ad followed up a Richard Dawkins inspired publicity wheeze where a series of buses were bedecked in a less categorical messages intoning: “There’s probably no god”, which amassed a mere 392 complaints. Dawkins escaped censure however when the ASA ruled it was merely an expression of opinion.

Elsewhere ongoing tensions in the Middle East reached the shores of the UK when the Israeli tourist board issued a series of posters which included the disputed territories of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. ASA subsequently banned the campaign pointing out that this land does not form part of the territory of Israel.

The full list of advertising bad guys are:

1. The Christian Party, claims there is a god, (1,204 complaints); Not investigated

Asserts “There definitely is a god”

2. Volkswagen, graphic violence, (1,070 complaints); Upheld in part

A man fights off various clones

3. Homepride, sexist, (804 complaints); Not upheld

Cleaner ad with line ‘so easy even a man can do it’

4. Advanced Medical Institute, unsuitable for children, (525 complaints); upheld

Poster ad asked “Want longer lasting SEX?”

5. Israeli Tourist Office, disputed territory, (445 complaints); upheld

Disputed territories subsumed into Israel on poster campaign

6. British Humanist Association, offense to people of faith, (392 complaints); not investigated

Claims “there probably is no god”

7. Kellogg’s, poor taste, (323 complaints); Not investigated

TV ad depicting a runaway shopping trolley with one toddler occupant

8. Pfizer, disturbing, (312 complaints); Not investigated

A man regurgitates a live rat

9. SC Johnson, Language, (292 complaints); Not investigated

Objections to the word ‘poo’

10. Department of Health, “distressing”, (242 complaints); Not investgated

A woman spontaneously combusts

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