A KFC ad that used the phrase ‘What the cluck’ and an ad from Deliveroo that suggested people ordering from different restaurants would get their deliveries at the same time in the same bag have both been banned by the ad regulator.
The outdoor and press ads from KFC were used to promote a lunch for £1.99. But there were a number of complaints over the use of the word ‘cluck’ which they believed had been substituted in place of fuck and many challenged whether the ads were appropriate for display where they could be seen by children.
KFC countered this, arguing that the phrase “what the cluck?” represented the customers’ response to a great value KFC deal and that the word “cluck” was used as an onomatopoeic reference to the noise of a chicken.
It said its marketers believed it was unlikely that children would make any connection between “cluck” and “fuck” given the clear typeface they used and would more likely connect it with the sound made by a chicken.
KFC added that it chose locations for posters in order to maximise coverage to adults over 16 years of age, and that in line with their self-imposed regulations no ad was displayed within 200 metres of schools.
However, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld the complaint, arguing it could easily be construed as a replacement for fuck.
“We considered that fuck was a word so likely to offend that it should not generally be used or alluded to in advertising, regardless of whether the ad was featured in a newspaper which had an adult target audience,” says the ASA.
“We also considered it likely that parents may want their children to avoid the word, or obvious allusions to it.”
This is not the first time KFC has alluded to the word fuck, however. In an apology ad run in print after it ran out of chicken last year, KFC rearranged the letters of its name to spell ‘FCK’. That ad received 13 complaints but the ASA did not investigate.
KFC also avoided an ad ban despite running the most complained about ad in 2017 – ‘The Whole Chicken’.
Deliveroo among top three most complained about ads
An ad from Deliveroo, meanwhile, has become one of the most complained adverts of the year. The ASA received 300 complaints about the ad, making it the third most complained ad of 2019 so far.
The ad shows a woman taking a delivery from a Deliveroo and distributing meals from various restaurants around the house. She called out the name of each restaurant or type of food as she handed over the meals: “Chinese, KFC, Wagamama, Greek salad, Pizza Express, Burger King, Five Guys, Doner, Buon Giorno Italiano, prawn crackers”.
The complainants noted that each restaurant would need a separate order, incurring a delivery fee, with each meal then delivered separately, so argued the ad was misleading.
The ASA upheld the complaints, saying that although it recognised the ad did not show a typical house or a typical delivery Deliveroo had chosen that scenario in order to demonstrate one of its real-world benefits.
“We considered that while viewers might appreciate that it was impractical for an order as large and diverse as the one shown in the ad to be delivered in a single delivery, the ad nevertheless implied that Deliveroo customers could order food from different restaurants to be delivered together,” says the ASA in the ruling.
While Deliveroo is among the most complained about ads of 2019 so far, it is not in the top spot. A GoCompare ad that shows its brand mascot Gio Compario in a car crash received 336 complaints, while an ad for Cheltenham Fireworks received 317. Both were deemed to be trivialising traumatic events.
The ASA notes that Deliveroo’s case is unusual as the majority of ads that gain the most complaints are due to offence rather than for being misleading.