A man cavorting in high heels and tight shorts and an advert that cast doubt over Santa’s existence topped the list of most complained about ads last year, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has revealed.
At the top – with more than double the number of complaints the second most criticised ad received – was Moneysupermarket.com’s internet and TV advert of a man walking down a street and dancing while wearing denim shorts and high-heeled shoes.
Some 1,513 complaints that the ad was offensive were filed, with many viewers citing the man’s clothing and dance moves and its “overtly sexual” content as reasons.
Three Booking.com adverts – involving a play on words where the word “booking” was seen to be used in the place of a swear word – were the second, fourth and seventh most complained about ads.
Online payment website PayPal claimed third place with its portrayal of two children concerned that their parents had not been shopping for Christmas presents.
Nearly 500 people expressed fears that “the ad revealed the truth about Father Christmas” and despite the complaints not being upheld, PayPal decided to change its scheduling of the advert.
A controversial Protein World poster campaign showing a woman in a bikini promoting a weight loss collection was the fifth most complained about ad, drawing 380 complaints.
The posters, which asked “Are you beach body ready?”, were criticised on social media and scrawled over in protest by angry commuters.
The ASA told Protein World that, due to its concerns about a range of health and weight loss claims, the ad could not appear again in its current form, but concluded it was “unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence”.
Charity ads and public health messages, which the ASA said can sometimes draw complaints due to their “sensitive content and handling of hard-hitting issues”, also featured in the top ten.
Only one out of the top 10 adverts receiving the most complaints - an Omega Pharma ad for a slimming aid - was banned, after the ASA found it presented “an irresponsible approach to body image and confidence”.While the top 10 list largely drew complaints about harm and offence, 75 per cent of the complaints the ASA receives are about misleading ads, the regulator said.
Moneysupermarket.com: 1,513 complaints - (not upheld) Viewers complained that the ad featuring a man in high heels and denim shorts was offensive due to its “overtly sexual content”.
Booking.com: 683 complaints - (not upheld) Complaints that ad was offensive and encouraged bad language by using the word “booking” in place of a swear word.
PayPal (UK): 464 complaints - (not upheld) Two children worried that their parents have not bought them Christmas presents. Viewers were concerned it would cast doubt over Santa’s existence.
Booking.com: 407 complaints - (not upheld) Featuring a man sitting on a boat before jumping off and swimming ashore offensive due to its use of the word “booking”.
Protein World: 380 complaints - (not upheld) Protein World told that their posters asking people if they were “beach body ready” could not appear again in their current form.
British Heart Foundation: 219 complaints - (not upheld) Ad showing a boy sitting in a classroom talking to his father who had died from a heart attack was considered distressing.
Booking.com: 201 complaints - (not upheld) The TV ad showed a story of a couple who met at a hotel and involved wordplay around the word “booking”.
Department of Health: 181 complaints - (not upheld) The “graphic” and “gruesome” ads showed a cigarette which contained flesh, but the ASA found they contained an “important health message”.
Nicocigs: 145 complaints - (not upheld) A TV ad for an electronic cigarette was criticised for potentially appealing to children.
Omega Pharma: 136 complaints - (upheld) Two women were seen exchanging texts comparing their bodies before heading on holiday. The ASA banned it for presenting “an irresponsible approach to body image and confidence”.