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according to five animal charities, who wrote to the Costa asking for the ad, which was created by Karmarama, to be withdrawn.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”.