Ban for your buck: The most complained about ads (that didn’t break the rules)

Although the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) write the rules, it is the ASA that enforces them in the UK and works to ensure advertising across all media is legal, decent, honest and truthful. In 2012, 31,298 complaints were considered concerning 18,990 ads, which led to 3,700 being changed or withdrawn.

Just because an ad receives hundreds of complaints doesn’t mean it will automatically be banned by the ASA.

These are the top five most complained about ads that did not breach the rules.

KFC (2005) – 1,671 complaints
The most complained about ad on record, here call centre workers are seen singing with their mouths full, but the ASA said it was unlikely to encourage bad manners in children.

Paddy Power (2010) – 1,313 complaints
A blind footballer inadvertently kicked a cat in this ad, but it was judged unlikely to encourage animal cruelty or cause serious offence.

The Christian Party (2009) – 1,204 complaints
Atheists objected to the statement that there “definitely is a God”, and while the ASA’s remit does not cover political party ads, it says it wouldn’t have been banned as it is a statement of opinion.

Marie Stopes International (2010) – 1,088 complaints
This ad offering sexual healthcare advice was thought by complainants to promote abortion, but was not banned as the ASA said it provided advice and did not advocate any particular course of action. (2012) – 1,008 complaints
Stuart Pearce is seen kicking a football into an opera singer’s stomach, but it was not found to be offensive as it was intended to be lighthearted.

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