Most complained-of ads were in 2014

Published: Friday 20th February 2015 by The News Editor

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The three most complained-about UK adverts of all time appeared last year, making light of the Oscar Pistorius trial, using the word “booking” in a questionable manner and offering a date with a Page 3 model.

Paddy Power’s Oscar Pistorius ad attracted by far the most complaints ever – 5,525 – and was suspended immediately by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for the seriousness of its content making light of a murder trial and the death of a woman.

The second most-complained-about ad, for, was cleared by the ASA this week after attracting 1,768 complaints last year alone for its apparent use of the word “booking” as a substitute for a swear word.

Some 1,711 complainants objected to the the Sun newspaper emailing its Dream Team fantasy football subscribers with details of a prize draw to win a date with a Page 3 model, believing it was sexist and objectified women.

The ASA said the fact that the three most complained-about ads ever appeared last year reflected the rise of social media, which allowed members of the public to voice and co-ordinate their concerns.

Many of the complaints about the Paddy Power and the Sun ads were co-ordinated via the online petition site, the ASA said.

Two of the most complained-about ads of last year related to copycat websites offering passport services, while Sainsbury’s fell foul of more than 800 viewers but was cleared by the watchdog for its ad based on the 1914 Christmas Truce.

An ad for The Save the Children Fund was also cleared following 614 complaints that its ad featuring a woman giving birth to a baby was offensive, distressing and inappropriately scheduled.

Waitrose resolved more than 250 complaints that its ad claiming that ‘Everyone who works at Waitrose owns Waitrose’ ignored the fact that some services were outsourced by amending the wording.

Two ads for VIP electronic cigarettes were banned following 199 complaints, with the ASA ruling that they depicted the products being exhaled in a way that created a strong association with traditional tobacco smoking.

And an ad for Unilever’s Flora Buttery was cleared following 183 complaints that its scenes of two children walking in on their parents “wrestling” was offensive and unsuitable for children to see.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “2014 was the year social media came into its own in making it easier than ever to lodge complaints en masse.

“While some ads will inevitably split opinion, as the diverse nature of complaints we received shows, last year underlined the importance of our work in cracking down on misleading ads, including copycat websites, that are simply unfair to consumers.”

Published: Friday 20th February 2015 by The News Editor

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