Here are the 10 most-complained-about ads of 2017.
1. Kentucky Fried Chicken.
755 complaints. Not upheld.
KFC’s ad featuring a chicken dancing to a rap soundtrack as it headed to slaughter attracted complaints that it was disrespectful to chickens and distressing for vegetarians, vegans and children.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled it was unlikely that the ad would cause distress or serious or widespread offence, as there were no explicit references to animal slaughter.
455 complaints. Not upheld.
This MoneySuperMarket.com campaign also appeared in the ASA’s top 10 list for 2015 and 2016, and once again featured the two #epicsquads – the strutters and the builders – and a new female character.
Many complainants found the ad to be offensive on the grounds that it was overtly sexual and possibly homophobic.
The ASA ruled it was unlikely to condone or encourage harmful discriminatory behaviour.
3. Unilever UK (Dove).
391 complaints. Not investigated, ads removed.
Dove produced a series of ads that contained statistics and opinions about breastfeeding in public. Complainants said the language, such as “put them away”, might encourage criticism of breastfeeding and some were concerned that the ads might encourage neglecting crying babies.
Dove issued an apology and subsequently pulled the ads and amended their website.
293 complaints. Not upheld.
The ad featuring a lesbian couple kissing passionately also appeared at number three on 2016’s list, and had attracted almost 1,200 complaints over the two years.
The ASA ruled that it was not too sexually explicit for children to see.
256 complaints. Not investigated, ads removed.
The ad featuring a boy and his mother talking about his dead father, and her disclosing that both father and son loved a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish burger, drew widespread criticism that it trivialised grief, was likely to cause distress to those who have experienced a close family death and was distasteful to compare an emotive theme with a fast food promotion.
The fast food chain issued an apology and pulled the ads.
6. RB UK Commercial (V.I.Poo).
207 complaints. Not upheld.
A fictional Hollywood starlet shares her secret on how to maintain good toilet etiquette, by using the V.I.Poo air freshener.
Many people found the ad unsavoury. The ASA ruled that the campaign was a light-hearted way of introducing the product and did not consider its reference to the “devil’s dumplings” likely to break rules on offence.
7. DSG Retail (Currys PC World).
131 complaints. Not upheld.
The TV ad showed parents telling their children that they would like to celebrate Christmas “traditionally” by sitting by the fire, singing carols and having long conversations. The mother then laughed at the visibly upset children and explained it was a joke.
Complainants believed the ad was offensive because it promoted materialism and equated Christmas with watching TV instead of Christianity.
The ASA ruled that the ad did not ridicule or denigrate Christians or Christianity, so was unlikely to offend on those grounds.
8. Telefonica (O2).
125 complaints. Not upheld.
O2’s ad about free screen replacements attracted complaints when it featured two men kissing and breaking one of the couple’s phone screens when he was pressed on to a table by the other man. Complainants believed it was too sexually explicit and scheduled inappropriately at times when children were likely to be watching. Some also felt the portrayal of a same-sex relationship was offensive to their religious beliefs.
The ASA said the scene in question was brief and did not contain any graphic or overly sexual imagery, ruling that it did not require a scheduling restriction and the depiction of a gay couple would not cause serious or widespread offence.
9. Macmillan Cancer Support.
116 complaints. Not upheld.
The TV ad showed a father talking to his daughter, receiving chemotherapy, vomiting in a sink, sitting slumped in a bath and crying in a car before being comforted by a nurse. People complained that the imagery was overly graphic and distressing to viewers.
The ASA found that the scenes served to illustrate the reality of living with cancer and addressed the serious nature of the illness appropriately.
10. Mars Chocolate UK (Maltesers).
92 complaints. Not upheld.
This ad appeared in the top 10 for the second year, with complainants believing the woman’s description of having a spasm during a romantic encounter with her boyfriend to be offensive and overly sexual. Some also felt it was offensive to portray the woman, who was in a wheelchair, in this manner.
The ASA found the woman’s conversation to be light-hearted and did not believe it would cause serious or widespread offence.