Two ads for Gocompare.com racked up almost 2,000 complaints in 2012, the annual report from the ASA has revealed, while the Asda Christmas ad and the campaign for My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding also came in the top five.
The Gocompare ad which saw Stuart Pearce kicking a football into the stomach of opera singer Gio Compario received 1,008 complaints, but was ruled not offensive by the ASA, while the ad which saw Sue Barker fire a rocket launcher at the singer received 797 complaints.
The ASA revealed that in 2012, it received 31,298 complaints about 18,990 ads, slightly fewer than in 2011, with complaints from the public making up 96 per cent of the complaints received.
It was stated that 3,700 ad campaigns were changed or withdrawn following action by the ASA.
The top ten most complained about ads of 2012
1) Gocompare.com Ltd
1,008 complaints – Not upheld
This TV ad, one of a series for the price comparison website, featured the former footballer Stuart Pearce kicking a football into the stomach of an opera singer.
We ruled that the ad was not offensive, irresponsible or harmful, because the ad was not explicit or gruesome, and would be seen as light-hearted and comical.
2) Gocompare.com Ltd
797 complaints – Not upheld
Another TV ad for the price comparison website, this time featuring Sue Barker taking aim and shooting the main character with a rocket launcher. We ruled the ads was not offensive or harmful because it showed over-the-top and fantastical behaviour and would be seen as light-hearted and comical. We also noted that the main character was shown unharmed at the end of the ad.
3) ASDA Stores Ltd
620 complaints – Not upheld
This TV ad, which featured a mother carrying out various tasks in preparation for Christmas, prompted complaints it was sexist. We did not uphold the complaints. We also rejected complaints that the ad was offensive to single fathers or men who played a primary domestic role. We thought the ad reflected ASDA’s view of the Christmas experience for a significant number of their customers.
4) Channel Four Television Corporation
373 complaints – Upheld in part
A series of ads for the TV programme My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, appearing on posters and in national and regional press and magazines, prompted complaints that they were offensive, racist and unfairly denigrated and degraded Gypsy and Traveller communities.
After a request from the Independent Reviewer of ASA Adjudications to re-open our investigation, we agreed that some of the images together with the accompanying text were offensive and irresponsible.
5) Kerry Foods Ltd
371 complaints – Upheld in part
We did not uphold complaints that the nudity in a TV ad for Richmond Ham was offensive. However, we agreed with complainants that referring to the product as “Britain’s only ham…” would be interpreted as meaning the product was British in origin, when that was not the case.
6) Paddy Power plc
311 complaints – Out of remit
We received complaints that an online ad on Paddy Power’s YouTube channel was offensive to members of the transgender community. The channel was registered in Ireland, and so it fell outside of our remit. We did however uphold a small number of complaints about the same ad which appeared on TV.
=8) Kellogg’s Marketing and Sales Company
234 complaints – Not upheld
We did not uphold complaints that a TV ad for breakfast cereal showing a man being attacked by a snake was unduly distressing. We acknowledged that some viewers might find the theme of the ad distasteful, but that most would view it as comical rather than graphic
=8) Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc
234 complaints – Not upheld
This TV ad prompted a number of complaints that it was irresponsible and harmful because it implied that it was acceptable to feed Christmas pudding to dogs. We didn’t think the ad implied it was acceptable to copy this behaviour, as the dog did not eat the pudding. Also, dog owners would be aware of the toxicity of grapes, raisins and other foods to their pets.
9) Kayak Software Corporation
189 complaints – Upheld in part
We ruled that this TV ad showing a man receiving brain surgery would be likely to cause distress without justifiable reason especially to viewers who had been affected by the type of operation depicted in the ad. We did not uphold complaints that the ad was offensive in general.
10) St John Ambulance
144 complaints – Not upheld
We did not uphold the complaints about this TV ad, which showed a man and his family coping with his diagnosis, treatment and eventual recovery from cancer, only for him to die by choking to death on a piece of food. Although distressing in its portrayal, we felt the overall message of the ad (that the relatively simple techniques of first aid could avoid sudden tragedy), was justifiable.
Check out the ASA's most complained about ads of all time.