The ad features a spoof rescue unit travelling around the UK, recovering “neglected” jars of Marmite that have been left at the back of cupboards and marks the first time the brand has appeared on TV in two years

It first aired during Coronation Street on ITV1 last night and immediately sparked a flurry of comments to the brand’s Facebook and YouTube pages from offended viewers.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has already received 250 complaints about the ad.

A spokesman for the ASA said complaints vary from the ad being in “poor taste” to being “deeply offensive” because it “trivialises” the work of both animal welfare charities and child protection agencies.

The ASA is currently logging and assessing the complaints but has made no decision on whether it will investigate the ad.

A spokeswoman for Unilever said it was never the brand’s intention to cause offence.

She adds: “This is the first time Marmite has been on television for two years and we have made every effort to ensure that it entertains anyone who watches it. It ranked highly throughout our rigorous testing process and we believe we have created an unmistakably Marmite ad – people will either love it or hate it and they certainly won’t forget it. We hope that everyone will watch and enjoy this commercial in the light-hearted way it was intended.”

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA says: “We understand that animal lovers are concerned on our behalf – people either love the advert or hate it. We plan to talk to the makers of Marmite about how we can work together on animal welfare.”

A spokesman for animal rights campaigning group PETA says: ”As an organisation with great affection for Marmite and for all living beings, PETA welcomes the advert because while it is tongue in cheek about the neglect of the jarred yeasty spread, it is jarring enough to remind viewers of the hard job that animal law-enforcement officers have and may generate calls about real abuse of real animals, doing a world of good.”