Last year there were 36,342 complaints made about television adverts, which were in response to 22,823 adverts. We take a look at some of the most complained-about TV adverts of all time.
The call centre – KFC advert – 1,671 Complaints
The Call Centre advert features three women who work in a call centre, singing whilst their mouths are full of their lunchtime KFC chicken salads. This KFC advert received 1,671 complaints, mainly due to encouraging poor eating habits, and arguing that the portrayal of call centre workers is offensive. Despite the record number of complaints, this advert was not banned by the ASA.
Blind football advert – Paddy Power – 1,313 Complaints
If you love cats, I’d advise against watching this one. The advert depicts a game of football where the players are blindfolded and unable to see. Unfortunately, a cat runs onto the pitch and gets mistaken for the football, getting kicked across the field and landing in a nearby tree. This advert received 1,313 complaints but was not deemed to be offensive enough to be removed by the ASA.
Are you late? – Marie Stopes International advert – 1,088 Complaints
This advert depicts a number of women who are experiencing being late for their periods, providing a telephone number for them to call if they are pregnant and don’t know what to do. This advert received 1,088 complaints, accusing the website of encouraging abortions. Again, this advert was approved by the ASA, who claimed the advert showed no preference towards having an abortion or not.
The Fight – Volkswagen advert – 1,070 Complaints
This advert for Volkswagen provides a metaphor for being in competition with yourself, with a man running through the Volkswagen factory engaging in a series of fights with multiple clones of himself in different staff roles e.g. security guard, executive etc. This advert received 1,070 complaints, mainly for encouraging copy-cat behaviour from impressionable young children. Whilst the advert wasn’t banned, it was moved to after the 9 pm watershed.
Orangeman – Tango Advert
Also featuring on our best 90s tv adverts list, the Orangeman Tango advert features a man sipping a can of tango, only to be slapped in the face by a man in orange with sports-like commentary narrating the scene. The advert then encouraged a concept known as happy-slapping and some burst eardrums from trying to replicate the scene at home. The advert was consequently banned for the violent behaviour it stirred up. Originally, the plan was for the orange man to kick the drinker on the behind, which probably would have resulted in a ban too.
Car Crash – Go Compare Advert – 336 Complaints
Usually known for the infamous catchy tune, Gio Compario has a different role in this advertisement, reenacting a true event whereby a tree lands in the middle of a road, causing the driver to flip upside down. The dramatisation of this scene, alongside the almost mockery of a serious car crash, is what leads to 336 complaints, making this Go Compare advert one of the most complained about in 2019. Despite the complaints, the ASA did not decide to ban the advert, and broadcasting of the advert continued.
You got it booking right – Booking.com advert – 2,500 Complaints
This advert portrays the anxious moment when you find out whether the property you’ve booked for your holiday is as good as the website made it out to be. When the families and other holiday bookers finally open the door to their accommodation, they are overjoyed that it’s as good, if not better than they expected. Sounds appropriate right? It would be, if not for the voiceover that substitutes the word booking for a similar-sounding but highly offensive word, here is a snippet of the text;
“You got it booking right. Because it doesn’t get any better than this. It doesn’t get any booking better than this. Look at the view, look at the booking view. This is exactly what you booking needed. Bask in the booking glory at over half a million properties. Planet Earth’s number one accommodation site. Booking dot com, booking dot yeah.”
The voiceover caused this advertisement to receive 2,500 complaints from the UK. Strangely enough, despite also being shown in Europe and the US, the majority of complaints were from UK viewers. Despite this high volume of complaints, the ASA ultimately decided not to remove this advertisement from the screens.
Favourites – McDonald’s advert – 256 Complaints
As an attempt to promote the less favourable filet-o-fish from their menu, this advert depicts a son who is asking his mother questions about his dead father. Whilst this conversation continues, they visit McDonald’s where the son chooses to have a filet-o-fish. His mother then explains how that used to be the favourite choice of his father too. This cheers the son up and any signs of grief are seemingly resolved. The fact that grief is used almost as a selling tool here causes the advert to receive 256 complaints. The ASA did remove this advert due to its exploitation of child bereavement, and McDonald’s provided an official apology.
What do you think of our list of TV adverts that received the highest number of complaints? Are there any adverts you felt were inappropriate to be shown on UK TV screens? Let us know by leaving a comment below.