Top 5 ‘offensive’ animal ads

From mauling moggies to leaving dogs out in the cold, no ads get the British public more riled than those with a semblance of animal cruelty. In no particular order – offense is subjective after all – Marketing Week picks out some of the most controversial animal ads from recent history.

John Lewis – 2010

John Lewis has long been considered the bastion of festive advertising, but in 2010 the retailer was forced to cut a scene showing a dog left outside in the snow from its Christmas ad, following complaints it condoned the mistreatment of animals.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received more than 300 complaints about the ad but it decided not to investigate.

Costa Coffee – 2010

Costa Coffee got off to a bad footing with its first ever TV ad in 2010, which featured a room of monkeys on typewriters as actor and voiceover choice Bill Nighy pondered “can a room full of monkeys produce the perfect cup of coffee?”

The answer was a resolute “no”, according to five animal charities, who wrote to the Costa asking for the ad, which was created by Karmarama, to be withdrawn. They also demanded Costa’s certification from the Rainforest Alliance be removed because they believed the ad promoted buying monkeys as pets. An investigation by the ASA into the ad did not find it in breach of the advertising code

Paddy Power – 2010

The year 2010 was clearly the year for offensive animal articles – coincidentally the year Justin Bieber’s first album was released. Also getting the lovers of small, furry, yappy creatures fired up into a fury that year was Paddy Power. 

Its “blind football” spot, which saw a player accidentally kicking a cat into next Tuesday was the third most complained about ad of all time, according to the ASA. However, the regulator found the ad was too surreal and lighthearted in tone to actually encourage people to abuse animals.

Morrisons – 2012


Who knew raisins could be lethal to dogs? Apparently not Morrisons, whose Christmas ad last year featured a boy feeding a dog some Christmas pudding under the table (which Fido sensibly turned his nose up at). 

The ad was met with a backlash from dog charities and veterinary groups but the ASA looked kindly on the supermarket, which had taken advice from a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons former director before filming, and decided against a ban. Morrisons has since removed the ad from its YouTube channel.

Marmite – 2013

It only launched last night (5 August) but Marmite’s latest ad, which spoofs the work of animal welfare services, has already landed itself in a big yeasty heap of controversy.

PETA and the RSPCA are apparently not offended, but that hasn’t stopped 250 animal lovers making official complaints to the ASA, saying the ad is in “poor taste” and “deeply offensive”. 

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here