Read an interesting article on the Independent recently about the most ‘complained about’ adverts of 2015 according to the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority). If an advert has been aired on the TV or the Internet, in this country if people have a grievance with an advert, their complaints get forwarded to the ASA. It is then down to the ASA to rule whether or not the disputed advert should be banned from public viewing. Guess which ad was the most controversial advert last year?


Moneysupermarkets Epic Strut advert which went all kinds of viral last year racked up a total of 1,513 complaints in total. Who the hell is complaining about Dave and his sweet moves? I reckon some of those complainers were just jealous they can’t bring it like Dave can. Okay, on a slighlty serious note, I can understand why people think this advert is suggestive in its dancing, denim shorts and high heels. But it was all in the name of fun. And let’s be honest, there’s way worst on your primetime TV schedules in comparison to Dave’s swoon-inducing moves. The ASA ruled not to ban the advert, yet I can’t find the original video on Moneysupermarket’s Youtube channel. Ah c’mon guys! claimed the runner up prize with 683 complaints in total. The main reason because the company substituted explictives with the word ‘booking’. And apparently quite a number of kids picked up on this and started doing it (what kid hasn’t done this from watching TV though?). Anyway it didn’t sit right with some people but the ASA ruled in the adverts favour. Haven’t seen it? You can view it here just to get an idea of the hoopla.

Paypal gets the bronze medal in the most slated advert for last year with 464 complaints. Why? Watch below.


Oh geez, this is what actual people complain about? Santa? Moving swiftly on. came for seconds again with a spot in fourth place for another booking advert (407 complaints) whilst Protein World (you knew this one was coming) came in 5th place with that talked about, body shaming advert, with 380 complaints.

ProteinWorld-Most Controversial Adverts of 2015

Now personally I like the colours (a lil’ bias I know) and I can see why people are upset that it suggests people aren’t perfect (also true) but why are people acting like this is something new? This kind of overt, sexualised advertising for the sake of a thinner waistline has been around for decades. Yes maybe the ad agency and brand label could lessen the overtones and make the ad most positive in a socially acceptable way, but let me ask you this. If the company are making more money and have greater brand awareness due to the ad, do you think they’ll stop what seems to be a working formula? I’m not arguing for Protein World, I’m just pointing out that at the end of the day, advertising (as with a lot of things in life) is subjective. Can’t please everyone unfortunately. And they haven’t stopped with their campaign style either.

The British Heart Foundation came in 6th with 219 complaints with its poignant cancer advert and (hahahaa hatrick!) claim 7th place with 201 complaints for a similar tongue-in-cheek ad like the ones mentioned above.

The Department of Health got 8th place thanks to 181 complaints about a graphically disturbing advert about smoking. Which I would to post below because it is equally stomach-churning and genius but if you have an uneasy stomach I’ve put the link here, for the brave only. Nicocigs got into trouble with 145 complaints for its e-cigarettes (9th place) and Omega Pharma rounds up the top 10 list with 136 complaints because of its body shaming ways.

Overall I can see why some of these adverts have upset some people. Again advertising can be cruelly subjective and it is tricky to keep everyone happy, but it depends on the client, the underlining concept and the target audience of course.  That’s not to say advertisers don’t have a responsibility to the general public, of course we do. But I’ve seen worst ads than these. Although that Paypal one was unintentionally boring, that’s what really offended me.

Written by: JR

Pics/Videos: Marketing Magazine/Youtube


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