Bodyform ad with bloody sanitary towel rakes in the most complaints of 2022

The Advertising Standards Authority has revealed the top three most complained about ads of the year, but none were deemed to have broken any advertising rules.

A Bodyform TV ad featuring a bloody sanitary towel is the most complained about ad of 2022, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has revealed.

Promoting the brand’s new Goodnight towels, the ad received 798 complaints. According to the ad watchdog, complaints ranged from the ad being “too graphic” and “unnecessary”, to being “degrading and demeaning to women”. Some complainants believed the spot was unsuitable to be broadcast at times when children could be watching.

However, the ASA determined that no advertising rules had been broken, and decided not to ban the ad from airing.

“Having carefully assessed the complaints, we did not consider the rules had been broken and there were no grounds for further investigation,” the watchdog said.

“We considered that the imagery was generally unlikely to be seen as inappropriate given the product being advertised, and as the ad was not explicit or overly graphic and did not talk about menstruation in negative terms, it was unlikely to be seen as demeaning or degrading to women or be likely to cause harm to children.”Bodyform owner hails long-term marketing investments as market share grows

No stranger to courting controversy as it tackles the taboos around menstruation, Bodyform’s wider ‘Periodsomnia’ campaign shines a light on the disruption periods can bring to the sleep of those who menstruate. According to the brand’s research, 62% of people who menstruate have poorer sleep on their period, and on average lose around five months of sleep over their lifetime. A two-minute film (watch above) features shots from inside the female reproductive system as a period begins, shows blood on sheets and invites viewers to “join our quest for sleep”.

But Bodyform isn’t the only intimate care brand to have racked up complaints over its portrayal of periods in advertising. Earlier this year, the ASA received 46 complaints about Here We Flo’s first TV ad, ‘#NoMorePeriodDrama’, which centred on a frank discussion about organic tampons around a dinner table. The ASA again elected not to uphold the complaints.

In second and third place…

With 403 complaints, the second most complained about ad this year came from vegan charity Viva!. The 30-second TV spot shows a couple ordering pulled pork through a delivery app, only to find a live piglet on their doorstep. The ad ends with the slogan “animals are not just meat”, as well as the charity’s website address.

The majority of complainants said the ad was “offensive”, “distressing”, and “vilified meat eaters”. Yet, as with the Bodyform spot, the ASA decided no rules had been broken as the ad did not contain actual or graphic violence.

“We considered that as the ad contained no actual or graphic violence it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or cause undue distress. We also considered it unlikely that viewers would interpret the ad as making a comment on meat consumption,” the watchdog said.

Trailing in third with 394 complaints is a TV ad for the North Cyprus Tourist Centre, which encourages viewers to consider holidaying in the region.

However, with North Cyprus currently occupied by the Turkish military and not recognised by the international community, complaints flooded in arguing the ad was “misleading” and omitted information about the “dangers” of holidaying in the area.

Again, the ASA decided not to ban the ad, pointing out that the UK government has not warned against travelling to North Cyprus. Viewers were therefore “unlikely to be misled about their holiday experience based on the information provided in the ad”.